Muscle diffusion tensor imaging in facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy

Muscle Nerve. 2024 Aug;70(2):248-256. doi: 10.1002/mus.28179. Epub 2024 Jun 14.


Introduction/aims: Muscle diffusion tensor imaging has not yet been explored in facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). We assessed diffusivity parameters in FSHD subjects compared with healthy controls (HCs), with regard to their ability to precede any fat replacement or edema.

Methods: Fat fraction (FF), water T2 (wT2), mean, radial, axial diffusivity (MD, RD, AD), and fractional anisotropy (FA) of thigh muscles were calculated in 10 FSHD subjects and 15 HCs. All parameters were compared between FSHD and controls, also exploring their gradient along the main axis of the muscle. Diffusivity parameters were tested in a subgroup analysis as predictors of disease involvement in muscle compartments with different degrees of FF and wT2 and were also correlated with clinical severity scores.

Results: We found that MD, RD, and AD were significantly lower in FSHD subjects than in controls, whereas we failed to find a difference for FA. In contrast, we found a significant positive correlation between FF and FA and a negative correlation between MD, RD, and AD and FF. No correlation was found with wT2. In our subgroup analysis we found that muscle compartments with no significant fat replacement or edema (FF < 10% and wT2 < 41 ms) showed a reduced AD and FA compared with controls. Less involved compartments showed different diffusivity parameters than more involved compartments.

Discussion: Our exploratory study was able to demonstrate diffusivity parameter abnormalities even in muscles with no significant fat replacement or edema. Larger cohorts are needed to confirm these preliminary findings.

Keywords: DTI; FSHD; MRI; diffusivity; facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy; muscle imaging; qMRI.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anisotropy
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging* / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / diagnostic imaging
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / pathology
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Facioscapulohumeral* / diagnostic imaging
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Facioscapulohumeral* / pathology