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Complementary PET studies of striatal neuronal function in the differential diagnosis between multiple system atrophy and Parkinson's disease.

A Antonini, K L Leenders, P Vontobel, R P Maguire, J Missimer, M Psylla, I Günther
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/120.12.2187 2187-2195 First published online: 1 December 1997


We used PET with the tracers [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), [18F]fluorodopa (FDOPA) and [11C]raclopride (RACLO) to study striatal glucose and dopa metabolism, and dopamine D2 receptor binding, respectively, in nine patients with multiple system atrophy. Ten patients with classical Parkinson's disease were investigated with the same three PET tracers' and three separate groups, each of 10 healthy subjects, served as control populations. We found that striatal FDOPA values separated all healthy subjects from patients with parkinsonism but they were not useful in distinguishing multiple system atrophy from Parkinson's disease. Conversely, striatal RACLO as well as FDG values discriminated all multiple system atrophy from Parkinson's disease patients as well as from healthy control subjects. Metabolic and receptor binding decrements in the putamen of multiple system atrophy patients were significantly correlated. Stepwise regression analysis revealed that a linear combination of putamen RACLO and FDOPA values accurately predicted clinical measures of disease severity in the multiple system atrophy group. Our findings suggest that striatal FDG and particularly RACLO are sensitive and effective measures of striatal function and may help characterizing patients with multiple system atrophy. In contrast, FDOPA measurements are accurate in detecting abnormalities of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system but may not distinguish among different forms of parkinsonism.