Putamen volume reduction on magnetic resonance imaging exceeds caudate changes in mild Huntington's disease

Ann Neurol. 1992 Jan;31(1):69-75. doi: 10.1002/ana.410310113.


The characteristic pathological features of Huntington's disease (HD) are neostriatal atrophy and neuronal loss. Although neuroradiological studies often show caudate atrophy in patients with moderate HD, frequently no caudate atrophy is found early in the illness. There have been no quantitative reports to date on in vivo putamen volume measures in mild HD, although the structure is known to be neuropathologically involved in the illness. We measured volumes of caudate nucleus and putamen and bicaudate ratios (BCR) from magnetic resonance images, blind to diagnosis, in 15 patients with mild HD and 19 age- and sex-matched control subjects using a computerized image analysis system. The region showing greatest atrophy was the putamen, which was reduced 50.1% in mean volume in HD patients compared with control subjects (p less than 0.000001). In contrast, caudate volume was reduced 27.7% (p = 0.004). BCR was increased 28.5% in HD patients (p = 0.0002). Discriminant function analysis was 94% effective in identifying the diagnostic group based on putamen volume alone, whereas caudate measures had considerable overlap. Correction of putamen volume for head size led to 100% separation by group. Putamen measures and BCR correlated with neurological examination scores but caudate volume did not. Volumetric measurement of putamen is a more sensitive indicator of brain abnormalities in mild HD than measures of caudate atrophy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Atrophy
  • Caudate Nucleus / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Huntington Disease / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Putamen / pathology*
  • Severity of Illness Index