Brain abscesses: etiologic categorization with in vivo proton MR spectroscopy

Radiology. 2004 Feb;230(2):519-27. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2302021317. Epub 2003 Dec 29.


Purpose: To compare the metabolite patterns observed at in vivo proton magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy of brain abscesses in patients for whom bacteriologic information was obtained from cultures and to categorize the MR spectral patterns with respect to the underlying etiologic agents.

Materials and methods: MR imaging and in vivo single-voxel proton MR spectroscopic data obtained from 75 patients with brain abscesses were retrospectively analyzed. Ex vivo spectroscopic experiments with the pus from 45 of these patients also were performed, and the data were further categorized on the basis of bacteriologic information. Quantification of various metabolites and metabolite ratios and statistical analyses of lactate and lactate/amino acid (AA) ratio levels were performed by using one-way analysis of variance.

Results: On the basis of in vivo proton MR spectroscopic and bacteriologic analysis findings, data were classified into three categories: Group 1 data showed resonances of lactate, AAs, and acetate, with or without succinate at proton MR spectroscopy; cultures for this group showed obligate anaerobes or a mixture of obligate and facultative anaerobes. The metabolite patterns in the group 2 and group 3 data were similar to the pattern of the group 1 data, with the exception that acetate and succinate resonances were absent. Culture was positive for either obligate aerobes or facultative anaerobes in group 2 and was sterile in group 3. At analysis of variance, in vivo data showed significant differences in lactate/AA ratios (P =.008), and ex vivo data showed significant differences in lactate levels (P =.001) among the three groups.

Conclusion: It is possible to differentiate anaerobic from aerobic or sterile brain abscesses on the basis of metabolite patterns observed at in vivo proton MR spectroscopy. This information may be useful in facilitating prompt and appropriate treatment of patients with these abscesses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / analysis
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amino Acids / analysis*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bacterial Infections / diagnosis
  • Bacterial Infections / etiology*
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Bacteriological Techniques
  • Brain Abscess / diagnosis
  • Brain Abscess / etiology*
  • Brain Abscess / microbiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Infant
  • Lactic Acid / analysis*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Succinic Acid / analysis


  • Acetates
  • Amino Acids
  • Lactic Acid
  • Succinic Acid