Olivopontocerebellar atrophy: MR diagnosis and relationship to multisystem atrophy

Radiology. 1990 Mar;174(3 Pt 1):693-6. doi: 10.1148/radiology.174.3.2305051.


Clinical diagnosis of olivopontocerebellar atrophy (OPCA) must be confirmed by radiologic demonstration of atrophy in an appropriate distribution. OPCA may be associated with degeneration of other systems in multisystem atrophy (MSA). The authors report 23 cases of OPCA, eight of which were associated with MSA. Atrophy involved the cerebellum, pons, and middle cerebellar peduncles in all cases. On intermediate and T2-weighted magnetic resonance (MR) images, abnormal signal intensity was always observed in the transverse pontine fibers, middle cerebellar peduncles, and cerebellum, structures known from pathologic study to degenerate in OPCA. Pyramidal tracts and superior cerebellar peduncles stood out because of their normal signal intensity. Of the eight patients with MSA, four also had variable abnormal signal intensities in the putamen. The authors believe that the combination of atrophy and abnormal signal intensity in the appropriate distribution strongly supports the diagnosis of OPCA. In some cases, MR imaging may demonstrate involvement of different systems, thus confirming the diagnosis of MSA.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Stem / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Olivopontocerebellar Atrophies / diagnosis*
  • Putamen / pathology
  • Spinocerebellar Degenerations / diagnosis*