Purpose: To determine whether diffusion-tensor (DT) imaging can demonstrate microstructural white matter abnormalities of multiple system atrophy (MSA) and to correlate these imaging findings with clinical signs and symptoms.
Materials and methods: Institutional review board approval and written informed consent were obtained. DT imaging was performed in 16 patients with MSA with predominant cerebellar symptoms (MSA-C) (mean age, 60.0 years + or - 5.1 [standard deviation]; range, 51-69 years) and 16 age-matched healthy subjects. Fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) were compared voxel-by-voxel between the two groups by using a two-sample t test. Overlap maps were created to illustrate areas with FA and MD alterations. Correlation between DT imaging indexes and Barthel index score, scale for assessment and rating of ataxia (SARA) score, severity of orthostatic hypotension, age of disease onset, and disease duration was tested by using Spearman rank or Pearson product-moment correlation analysis. T2-weighted and proton density-weighted images of the patients were visually assessed.
Results: Widespread areas of FA reduction and MD elevation were observed in supra- and infratentorial white matter structures in patients with MSA (P < .05, false discovery rate corrected). Significant correlation (P < .01) between DT imaging indexes and Barthel index score, SARA score, severity of orthostatic hypotension, and disease duration was observed for multiple areas with FA and/or MD alterations. T2-weighted and proton density-weighted images showed no significant abnormality in supratentorial white matter.
Conclusion: DT imaging may help identify the microstructural white matter abnormalities of MSA-C. DT imaging may be useful for severity assessment of MSA-C.