Normative brain volume reports may improve differential diagnosis of dementing neurodegenerative diseases in clinical practice

Eur Radiol. 2020 May;30(5):2821-2829. doi: 10.1007/s00330-019-06602-0. Epub 2020 Jan 30.


Objectives: Normative brain volume reports (NBVRs) are becoming more and more available for the workup of dementia patients in clinical routine. However, it is yet unknown how this information can be used in the radiological decision-making process. The present study investigates the diagnostic value of NBVRs for detection and differential diagnosis of distinct regional brain atrophy in several dementing neurodegenerative disorders.

Methods: NBVRs were obtained for 81 consecutive patients with distinct dementing neurodegenerative diseases and 13 healthy controls (HC). Forty Alzheimer's disease (AD; 18 with dementia, 22 with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), 11 posterior cortical atrophy (PCA)), 20 frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and ten semantic dementia (SD) cases were analyzed, and reports were tested qualitatively for the representation of atrophy patterns. Gold standard diagnoses were based on the patients' clinical course, FDG-PET imaging, and/or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers following established diagnostic criteria. Diagnostic accuracy of pattern representations was calculated.

Results: NBVRs improved the correct identification of patients vs. healthy controls based on structural MRI for rater 1 (p < 0.001) whereas the amount of correct classifications was rather unchanged for rater 2. Correct differential diagnosis of dementing neurodegenerative disorders was significantly improved for both rater 1 (p = 0.001) and rater 2 (p = 0.022). Furthermore, interrater reliability was improved from moderate to excellent for both detection and differential diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases (κ = 0.556/0.894 and κ = 0.403/0.850, respectively).

Conclusion: NBVRs deliver valuable and observer-independent information, which can improve differential diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases.

Key points: • Normative brain volume reports increase detection of neurodegenerative atrophy patterns compared to visual reading alone. • Differential diagnosis of regionally distinct atrophy patterns is improved. • Agreement between radiologists is significantly improved from moderate to excellent when using normative brain volume reports.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Brain; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Magnetic resonance imaging; Neurodegenerative disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Algorithms*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results