Objective: To evaluate proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy for detection and monitoring of upper motoneuron degeneration in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Methods: Seventy patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis according to the El Escorial criteria were compared with 48 healthy control subjects. Single-volume proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (echo time, 272 milliseconds; repetition time, 2000 milliseconds) was performed in both motor cortices for detection of N-acetylaspartate (NAA), phosphocreatine + creatine ([P]Cr), and choline-containing compounds (Cho) to calculate the metabolite ratios NAA/Cho, NAA/(P)Cr, and Cho/(P)Cr. In addition, absolute metabolite concentrations of NAA, (P)Cr, and Cho were obtained in 30 patients and 15 controls with the unsuppressed water signal used as an internal reference.
Results: Absolute concentrations of NAA (P<.001) and (P)Cr (P<.05) were reduced in motor cortices of patients, whereas Cho concentrations remained unchanged. The NAA/Cho and NAA/(P)Cr ratios were reduced in all El Escorial subgroups (P<.001). The Cho/(P)Cr ratio was elevated in patients with definite amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (P<.05). Metabolite ratio changes corresponded to the lateralization of clinical symptoms and were weakly correlated with disease duration and disease severity. In follow-up observations of 16 patients during a mean (+/-SD) of 12.1 +/- 8.7 months, NAA/Cho dropped by 9.1% (P<.01), and Cho/(P)Cr increased by 7.0% (P<.01). Changes of metabolite ratios were significantly correlated with progression of disease severity.
Conclusions: Measurement of NAA concentrations and NAA/Cho ratios appear to be most suitable for detection of motor cortex degeneration by single-volume proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Reduced NAA/Cho ratios correspond to aspects of the clinical presentation and reflect disease progression in follow-up measurements.