Acute carbon monoxide poisoning: MR imaging findings with clinical correlation

Diagn Interv Imaging. 2017 Apr;98(4):299-306. doi: 10.1016/j.diii.2016.10.004. Epub 2016 Nov 24.


Purpose: To assess the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings, including diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) in patients with acute carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and correlate MRI findings with carboxyhemoglobin levels.

Materials and methods: The MRI examinations and medical records of seven men with a mean age of 43±16.0years (SD) (range: 25-63 years) with acute CO poisoning were reviewed. MRI examinations were analyzed with respect to lesion location, imaging presentation on T1- and T2-weighted images, and diffusion characteristics on DWI and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) maps. We also evaluated clinical features and laboratory findings including the presenting symptoms and signs, carboxyhemoglobin level, and treatment.

Results: All seven patients presented with mental status change. The level of carboxyhemoglobin ranged between 8.3% and 34.8% (normal<1.5%). All seven patients (7/7, 100%) showed restricted diffusion of the lesions on ADC maps and bilateral involvement of globus pallidus. The mean ratios of ADC values was 0.63±0.15 (SD) (range: 0.46-0.92) on bilateral globi pallidi. Cerebral cortex, cerebral white matter, cerebellum, hippocampus, amygdala, splenium of corpus callosum, midbrain and insula were also involved.

Conclusion: Bilateral globi pallidi with restricted diffusion may be a characteristic MRI feature in patients with acute CO poisoning. However, the relationship was not certain between the carboxyhemoglobin levels and the variety or severity of MRI findings.

Keywords: Carbon monoxide poisoning; Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI); Globus pallidum; Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning / therapy
  • Carboxyhemoglobin / metabolism*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Globus Pallidus / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule*
  • Middle Aged
  • Statistics as Topic


  • Carboxyhemoglobin