Central pontine myelinolysis and its imitators: MR findings

Radiology. 1988 Sep;168(3):795-802. doi: 10.1148/radiology.168.3.3406409.


The clinical, radiologic, and neuropathologic findings in 13 patients with central pontine myelinolysis were reviewed. Antemortem computed tomography (CT) had been performed in nine, and ante- or postmortem magnetic resonance (MR) imaging in 11. Chronic alcoholism or rapid correction of hyponatremia was present in over 75% of cases. One CT scan was positive, but only on retrospective review. In all but one patient, MR imaging eventually revealed an abnormality within the pons; in two patients the initial study was normal. The lesions varied in shape, with peripheral involvement in two patients and extrapontine involvement in four. The abnormality was smaller at 6-month follow-up in one patient and unchanged at 1 year in another. One patient never had a demonstrable pontine lesion but did have symmetric basal ganglia abnormalities, which were consistent with extrapontine myelinolysis. MR imaging disclosed similar central pontine alterations resulting from infarct, metastasis, glioma, multiple sclerosis, encephalitis, and radiation or chemotherapy; thus, such changes are not unique.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Demyelinating Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnosis
  • Pons / pathology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed