Neurotoxicity to the basal ganglia shown by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) following poisoning by methanol and other substances

P Hantson, T Duprez, P Mahieu
Journal of Toxicology. Clinical Toxicology 1997, 35 (2): 151-61

OBJECTIVE: To define specific brain magnetic resonance features in methanol intoxicated patients and to evaluate the clinical relevance of monitoring these features.

BACKGROUND: During the past decade magnetic resonance imaging has proven to be an exquisitely sensitive modality in depicting subtle water changes in diseased areas of the brain, allowing the definition of high-risk structures in numerous pathological conditions.

METHOD: Four patients admitted to our institution for acute methanol intoxication were repeatedly evaluated by brain magnetic resonance imaging or a combination of computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. Common features of initial brain status were shown in all four cases and compared to those of patients presenting with other intoxications or critical deprivation states.

RESULTS: Preferential localization of methanol-induced lesions within the putamina was observed in all four cases. This finding is specific compared to intoxication by other substances like carbon monoxide, or in the critical phase of metabolic disorders. The striking regression of the putaminal lesions on follow-up magnetic resonance examinations correlated with complete neurological recovery and the absence of extrapyramidal disturbance. Two patients exhibited discrete symmetric additional lesions in the medial areas of the parieto-occipital lobes. In a third one, the occipital lesions were severe. All three suffered from permanent visual impairment. The fourth patient, in whom magnetic resonance examinations failed to reveal any occipital lesion, never complained of visual disturbance though signs of optic neuropathy were detected in the visual evoked potentials.

CONCLUSION: Magnetic resonance imaging appeared as a well suited neuroimaging modality in methanol intoxicated patients both in revealing a specific pattern of brain lesions and in demonstrating valuable correlation between evolution of brain changes on magnetic resonance images and clinical outcome.

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