Purpose: Diffusion tensor imaging can evaluate the cerebral white matter quantitatively using fractional anisotropy (FA) and also can extract a certain tract by tractography, but these two have been used separately and not combined. The purpose of this study was to assess the clinical feasibility of ROI analysis using diffusion tensor tractography (DTT) in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Materials and methods: Sixteen patients with ALS (9 limb-onset type, 7 bulbar-onset type) and nine age-matched volunteers were studied. DTT of the corticobulbar tract (DTT-CBT) and corticospinal tract (DTT-CST) were visualized by free software (dTV/VOLUME-ONE). Regions-of-interest (ROIs) were semi-automatically placed on the tracts defined by DTT methods, and FA values within the ROIs were measured.
Results: Mean FA values of ALS patients in the ROIs along the DTT-CST (bulbar-onset: 0.574, limb-onset: 0.594) were significantly lower than those of controls (DTT-CST: 0.629) (p<0.05). The mean FA of DTT-CBT of the bulbar-onset type (0.509) was significantly lower than that of the limb-onset type (0.558) and that of volunteers (0.561).
Conclusion: DTT could segmentate certain white matter tracts and evaluate them quantitatively. It could depict the subtle changes between subtypes of ALS as well as the changes between the patients and volunteers.