Neuroimaging of infections

NeuroRx. 2005 Apr;2(2):324-32. doi: 10.1602/neurorx.2.2.324.


Neuroimaging plays a crucial role in the diagnosis and therapeutic decision making in infectious diseases of the nervous system. The review summarizes imaging findings and recent advances in the diagnosis of pyogenic brain abscess, ventriculitis, viral disease including exotic and emergent viruses, and opportunistic disease. For each condition, the ensuing therapeutic steps are presented. In cases of uncomplicated meningitis, cranial computed tomography (CT) appears to be sufficient for clinical management to exclude acute brain edema, hydrocephalus, and pathology of the base of skull. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is superior in depicting complications like sub-/epidural empyema and vasculitic complications notably on FLAIR (fluid-attenuated inversion recovery)-weighted images. The newer technique of diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) shows early parenchymal complications of meningitis earlier and with more clarity and is of help in differentiation of pyogenic abscess (PA) from ring enhancing lesions of other etiology. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (PMRS) seems to produce specific peak patterns in cases of abscess. The presence of lactate cytosolic amino acids and absence of choline seems to indicate PA. Also in cases of suspected opportunistic infection due to toxoplasma DWI may be of help in the differentiation from lymphoma, showing no restriction of water diffusion. In patients with herpes simplex and more exotic viruses like West Nile and Murray Valley virus DWI allows earlier lesion detection and therapeutic intervention with virustatic drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Abscess / diagnosis
  • Brain Abscess / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Abscess / pathology
  • Central Nervous System Fungal Infections / diagnosis
  • Central Nervous System Fungal Infections / diagnostic imaging
  • Central Nervous System Fungal Infections / pathology
  • Central Nervous System Infections / diagnosis*
  • Central Nervous System Infections / diagnostic imaging
  • Central Nervous System Infections / pathology
  • Empyema / diagnosis
  • Empyema / diagnostic imaging
  • Empyema / pathology
  • Humans
  • Meningitis / diagnosis
  • Meningitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Meningitis / pathology
  • Meningoencephalitis / diagnosis
  • Meningoencephalitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Meningoencephalitis / pathology
  • Radiography
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / pathology
  • Toxoplasmosis / diagnosis
  • Toxoplasmosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Toxoplasmosis / pathology