Edinburgh Imaging

13 Aug 18. Featured Paper

Results from the largest post mortem MRI brain analysis of the fatal disease CJD has been published.

Link to paper on PLOS ONE 


Lorna M. Gibson, Francesca M. Chappell, David Summers, Donald A. Collie, Robin Sellar, Jonathan Best, Richard Knight, James W. Ironside and Joanna M. Wardlaw


The relationship between magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and clinical variables in patients suspected to have Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) is uncertain. We aimed to determine which MRI features of CJD (positive or negative), previously described in vivo, accurately identify CJD, are most reliably detected, vary with disease duration, and whether combined clinical and imaging features increase diagnostic accuracy for CJD. Prospective patients suspected of having CJD were referred to the National CJD Research and Surveillance Unit between 1994–2004; post-mortem, brains were sent for MRI and histopathology.

Two neuroradiologists independently assessed MRI for atrophy, white matter hyperintensities, and caudate, lentiform and pulvinar signals, blind to histopathological diagnosis and clinical details. We examined differences in variable frequencies using Fisher’s exact tests, and associations between variables and CJD in logistic regression models. Amongst 200 cases, 118 (59%) with a histopathological diagnosis of CJD and 82 (41%) with histopathological diagnoses other than CJD, a logistic regression model including age, disease duration at death, atrophy, white matter hyperintensities, bright or possibly bright caudate, and present pulvinar sign correctly classified 81% of cases as CJD versus not CJD. Pulvinar sign alone was not independently associated with an increased likelihood of histopathologically-confirmed CJD (of any subtype) or sporadic CJD after adjustment for age at death, disease duration, atrophy, white matter hyperintensities or caudate signal; despite the large sample, data sparsity precluded investigation of the association of pulvinar sign with variant CJD. No imaging feature varied significantly with disease duration.

Of the positive CJD signs, neuroradiologists most frequently agreed on the presence or absence of atrophy (agreements in 169/200 cases [84.5%]). Combining patient age, and disease duration, with absence of atrophy and white matter hyperintensities and presence of increased caudate signal and pulvinar sign predicts CJD with good accuracy.

Autopsy remains essential.