Objective: Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a rare dementing illness that usually affects older adults. Currently, neuroradiologic examinations play a minor role in the diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Several single case reports have noted a distinctive finding of hyperintense signal abnormalities in the basal ganglia on T2-weighted MR images of patients with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. In order to assess the diagnostic utility of this finding, we studied the imaging features of four patients with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in whom this MR finding was present.
Materials and methods: Two neuroradiologists retrospectively reviewed the MR images of four patients who had pathologically proved Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and signal abnormalities in the basal ganglia on T2-weighted MR images. The patients' clinical findings were also analyzed.
Results: The four patients had MR examinations between 6 months and 1 year after the onset of symptoms. In all four cases, the hyperintense signal abnormalities in the basal ganglia on T2-weighted images were diffuse and bilaterally symmetric. The T1-weighted images were normal. A CT scan was obtained on a single patient and was normal.
Conclusion: Although a lack of signal abnormality in the basal ganglia on MR imaging cannot be used to rule out a diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, our experience and review of published reports suggest that in the proper clinical setting, bilaterally symmetric, diffuse hyperintense abnormalities in the basal ganglia on T2-weighted images may be a specific sign of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.