T2 hyperintensity of medial lemniscus is an indicator of small-vessel disease.
OBJECTIVE: Small-vessel disease is a common MRI finding that can be difficult to differentiate from other white matter (WM) diseases because of the lack of a specific pattern of brain involvement. The purpose of our study was to evaluate medial lemniscus hyperintensity seen on FLAIR images as an imaging marker for small-vessel disease. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Two blinded neuroradiologists retrospectively reviewed 103 consecutive outpatient brain MRI studies. Medial lemniscus signal in the dorsal pons was evaluated visually on FLAIR images and after placing regions of interest (ROIs) on T2-weighted images. On the basis of the original interpretations, scans were divided into three categories: small-vessel disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), and normal or nonspecific WM changes. Cardiovascular risk factors were recorded. Analysis of variance and Fisher exact tests were used to determine group differences, and kappa statistics was used to determine interrater agreement. RESULTS: Thirty-seven patients had small-vessel disease, 14 patients had MS, and 52 had nonspecific WM changes. Medial lemniscus hyperintensity was seen in about 20% of patients with small-vessel disease and was generally bilateral. Although ROI analyses identified a slightly higher number of patients with medial lemniscus signal > 20% of adjacent to normal-appearing brainstem, interrater reliability was moderate, and there were false-positive and false-negative cases in comparison with visual data. When small-vessel disease patients were further subdivided into mild or advanced subgroups, medial lemniscus hyperintensity was selectively seen in advanced small-vessel disease. Patients with medial lemniscus hyperintensity were older (p < 0.001) and had higher prevalence of diabetes (p = 0.03), hypertension (p = 0.009), and hypercholesterolemia (p = 0.03). CONCLUSION: Medial lemniscus hyperintensity seen on FLAIR images is a reliable radiologic marker of advanced small-vessel disease.
Erbay, SH; Brewer, E; French, R; Midle, JB; Zou, KH; Lee, GM; Erbay, KD; Bhadelia, RA
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