Peripheral neuropathy: assessment of proximal nerve integrity by diffusion tensor imaging

Christian Mathys, Joel Aissa, Gerd Meyer Zu Hörste, Dorothea C Reichelt, Gerald Antoch, Bernd Turowski, Hans-Peter Hartung, Kazim A Sheikh, Helmar C Lehmann
Muscle & Nerve 2013, 48 (6): 889-96

INTRODUCTION: We investigated the utility of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) for detecting neuropathic changes in proximal nerve segments in patients with peripheral neuropathy.

METHODS: Twenty-one individuals with (n = 11) and without (n = 10) peripheral neuropathy underwent DTI of a defined sciatic nerve segment. Patients and controls were evaluated by clinical examination and nerve conduction studies at baseline and 6 months after the initial DTI scan.

RESULTS: The mean fractional anisotropy (FA) value was significantly lower in sciatic nerves from patients with peripheral neuropathy as compared with controls. Sciatic nerve FA values correlated with clinical disability scores and electrophysiological parameters of axonal damage at baseline and 6 months after MRI scan.

CONCLUSIONS: DTI-derived FA values are a sensitive measure to discriminate healthy from functionally impaired human sciatic nerve segments. DTI of proximal nerve segments may be useful for estimating the proximal axonal degeneration burden in patients with peripheral neuropathies.

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