Progression in frontotemporal dementia: identifying a benign behavioral variant by magnetic resonance imaging

Arch Neurol. 2006 Nov;63(11):1627-31. doi: 10.1001/archneur.63.11.1627.


Objective: To assess the clinical course and prognosis in patients with behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia (FTD) lacking evidence of brain atrophy on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Design: Patients were enrolled into this prospective cohort study over a period of 15 years; cognitive status, duration of symptoms, and behavioral indexes were recorded. Brain MRIs were rated using a standardized scale.

Setting: Regional early-onset dementia clinic.

Participants: Thirty-one participants diagnosed clinically with behavioral-variant FTD. Intervention Rating of MRIs.

Main outcome measures: Death or institutionalization after a minimum of 3 years' follow-up indicated poor prognosis, while the ability to live independently was regarded as a good prognosis for the purpose of survival (Kaplan-Meier) and discriminant function analysis.

Results: Patients with normal or borderline MRI findings (n = 15) showed significantly longer survival to institutionalization or death than those (n = 16) with definite frontotemporal atrophy (mean +/- SE, 9.3 +/- 1.7 years vs 3.0 +/- 0.7 years; P<.01). Using groups defined by 3-year outcome (good or bad prognosis), cerebral atrophy predicted poor outcome while age, symptom duration, cognitive performance, behavioral impairment, and overall disability at baseline did not.

Conclusions: Patients with FTD with normal MRI results follow a more benign course than cases with atrophy at presentation. The substrate of the behavioral symptoms in such cases may differ from the neurodegenerative pathological features typically associated with FTD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Dementia / mortality
  • Dementia / pathology*
  • Dementia / physiopathology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis