Measurement of the midbrain diameter on routine magnetic resonance imaging: a simple and accurate method of differentiating between Parkinson disease and progressive supranuclear palsy

Arch Neurol. 2001 Jul;58(7):1076-9. doi: 10.1001/archneur.58.7.1076.


Anteroposterior diameters of the suprapontine midbrain, the pons, and the collicular plate were measured in 50 patients with various parkinsonian syndromes (Parkinson disease [PD] [n = 20], progressive supranuclear palsy [PSP] [n = 16], and multiple-system atrophy of striatonigral type [n = 14]) and 12 age-matched healthy control subjects by means of axial T2-weighted magnetic resonance images. While no differences in midbrain diameter were found between patients with PD (mean, 18.5 mm) and control subjects (mean, 18.2 mm), patients with PSP had significantly lower midbrain diameters (mean, 13.4 mm) than patients with PD and control subjects (P<.001), without any overlap between these 2 groups. However, midbrain diameters of patients with multiple-system atrophy were also significantly lower than those of control subjects and patients with PD, with individual values showing overlap with the PSP, PD, and control groups. Pontine and collicular plate diameters did not contribute additional information. We therefore conclude that measurement of anteroposterior diameter of the midbrain on axial T2-weighted magnetic resonance images is a reliable means to differentiate patients with PSP from those with PD and should be incorporated into the diagnostic criteria for PSP.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atrophy
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inferior Colliculi / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Mesencephalon / anatomy & histology
  • Mesencephalon / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology*
  • Pons / anatomy & histology
  • Pons / pathology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Superior Colliculi / pathology
  • Supranuclear Palsy, Progressive / pathology*