Original article| Volume 38, ISSUE 6, P571-580, June 2016

The magnetic resonance imaging spectrum of Pelizaeus–Merzbacher disease: A multicenter study of 19 patients



      We retrospectively evaluated the imaging spectrum of Pelizaeus–Merzbacher disease (PMD) in correlation with the clinical course and genetic abnormality.


      We collected the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings of 19 genetically proven PMD patients (all males, aged 0–29 years old) using our integrated web-based MRI data collection system from 14 hospitals. The patterns of hypomyelination were determined mainly by the signals of the cerebrum, corticospinal tract, and brainstem on T2-weighted images (T2WI). We assessed the degree of myelination age on T1-weighted images (T1WI) and T2WI independently, and we evaluated cerebellar and callosal atrophy. The clinical severity and genetic abnormalities (causal mutations of the proteolipid protein gene PLP1) were analyzed together with the imaging findings.


      The clinical stage tended to be more severe when the whole brainstem, or corticospinal tract in the internal capsule showed abnormally high intensity on T2WI. Diffuse T2-high signal of brainstem was observed only in the patients with PLP1 point mutation. Myelination age “before birth” on T1WI is a second manifestation correlated with the clinically severe phenotypes. On the other hand, eight patients whose myelination ages were > 4 months on T1WI were associated with mild clinical phenotypes. Four of them showed almost complete myelination on T1WI with a discrepancy in myelination age between T1WI and T2WI. A random and patchy pattern of myelination on T2WI was noted in one patient with PLP1 point mutation. Advanced myelination was observed in three of the seven followed-up patients. Four patients had atrophy of the cerebellum, and 17 patients had atrophy of the corpus callosum.


      Our multicenter study has demonstrated a wide variety of imaging findings of PMD. Signal intensity of brainstem and corticospinal tract of internal capsule would be the points to presume clinical severity in PMD patients. The spectrum of MRI findings should be kept in mind to diagnose PMD and to differentiate from other demyelinating leukodystrophies.


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