Evaluation of possible prognostic factors of fulminant acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) on magnetic resonance imaging with fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) and diffusion-weighted imaging

F Y Donmez, H Aslan, M Coskun
Acta Radiologica 2009, 50 (3): 334-9

BACKGROUND: Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) may be a rapidly progressive disease with different clinical outcomes.

PURPOSE: To investigate the radiological findings of fulminant ADEM on diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) and fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) images, and to correlate these findings with clinical outcome.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Initial and follow-up magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in eight patients were retrospectively evaluated for distribution of lesions on FLAIR images and presence of hemorrhage or contrast enhancement. DWI of the patients was evaluated as to cytotoxic versus vasogenic edema. The clinical records were analyzed, and MRI results and clinical outcome were correlated.

RESULTS: Four of the eight patients died, three had full recovery, and one had residual cortical blindness. The distribution of the hyperintense lesions on FLAIR sequence was as follows: frontal (37.5%), parietal (50%), temporal (37.5%), occipital (62.5%), basal ganglia (50%), pons (37.5%), mesencephalon (37.5%), and cerebellum (50%). Three of the patients who died had brainstem involvement. Two patients had a cytotoxic edema, one of whom died, and the other developed cortical blindness. Six patients had vasogenic edema: three of these patients had a rapid progression to coma and died; three of them recovered.

CONCLUSION: DWI is not always helpful for evaluating the evolution or predicting the outcome of ADEM. However, extension of the lesions, particularly brainstem involvement, may have an influence on the prognosis.

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