Wallerian degeneration: evaluation with MR imaging

Radiology. 1988 Jul;168(1):199-202. doi: 10.1148/radiology.168.1.3380957.


Twenty-three patients who underwent routine magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of the brain were found to have signal or structural abnormalities corresponding to white matter tracts. Images were evaluated for anatomic and MR signal characteristics of the involved tract, associated primary lesions, and, when possible, changes in MR signal and anatomic structures with time. Images from 20 patients demonstrated a thin band of abnormal signal contiguous with the primary lesion and conforming to the known anatomic pathway of a white matter tract. Cerebral infarction was the most common associated primary disorder (n = 17). Neoplasms (n = 2), demyelinating (n = 1) and posthemorrhagic (n = 2) conditions, and an idiopathic movement disorder (n = 1) were associated with white matter tract signal abnormalities that were indistinguishable from those seen with infarction. Signal abnormality corresponding to the corticospinal tract was the type most commonly seen. No change in signal characteristics was seen with time (six cases) or following contrast material administration (two cases). The authors conclude that MR imaging provides a sensitive method of evaluating wallerian degeneration in the living human brain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain Diseases / pathology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / pathology
  • Cerebral Infarction / pathology
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Degeneration*
  • Wallerian Degeneration*