Cerebral imaging by magnetic resonance imaging and single photon emission computed tomography in systemic lupus erythematosus with central nervous system involvement

K Oku, T Atsumi, S Furukawa, T Horita, Y Sakai, S Jodo, Y Amasaki, K Ichikawa, O Amengual, T Koike
Rheumatology 2003, 42 (6): 773-7

OBJECTIVE: To assess the significance of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) abnormalities in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

METHODS: Forty-four patients with SLE were retrospectively analysed. Patients were classified into three groups [1 and 2: patients with central nervous system (CNS) manifestations before and after starting high-dose steroid therapy, respectively; 3: patients without CNS manifestations. MRI was performed in all 44 patients and SPECT in 31.

RESULTS: Abnormal findings in MRI were found in 19 patients. MRI abnormalities were significantly more frequent in patients with CNS manifestations than in those without [71 vs 17%, odds ratio (OR) 11.9, confidence interval (CI) 2.8-49.9, P=0.0003]. After the initiation of steroid therapy, patients with CNS manifestations also had an increased frequency of abnormal MRI. No correlation was found between SPECT findings and CNS manifestations. However, patients with CNS manifestations after starting steroids showed a markedly increased frequency of abnormal MRI and SPECT compared with those without CNS manifestations (80 vs 7%; OR 56, CI 4.4-719, P=0.0003). The positive predictive value of abnormality in both techniques in developing CNS manifestations after starting steroids was 89%.

CONCLUSION: MRI findings correlated with CNS manifestations in SLE. Where there is a high suspicion of CNS involvement, the combination of MRI and SPECT may be useful in predicting CNS manifestations after starting steroid therapy.

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