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Measurement of structural integrity of the spinal cord in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis using diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging.

PLoS One. 2019 Oct 29;14(10):e0224078. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0224078. eCollection 2019.

Authors/Editors: Patzig M, Bochmann K, Lutz J, Stahl R, Küpper C, Liebig T, Reilich P, Dieterich M.
Publication Date: 2019



The value of conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is low. Functional and quantitative MRI could be more accurate. We aimed to examine the value of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) with fractional anisotropy (FA) measurements of the cervical and upper thoracic spinal cord in patients with ALS.

Patients and methods

Fourteen patients with ALS and 15 sex- and age-matched controls were examined with DTI at a 3T MRI scanner. Region-of-interest (ROI) based fractional anisotropy measurements were performed at the levels C2-C4, C5-C7 and Th1-Th3. ROIs were placed at different anatomical locations of the axial cross sections of the spinal cord.


FA was significantly reduced in ALS patients in anterolateral ROIs and the whole cross section at the C2-C4 level and the cross section of the Th1-Th3 level. There was a trend towards a statistically significant FA reduction in the anterolateral ROIs at the C5-C7 level in ALS patients. No significant differences between patients and controls were found in posterior ROIs.


FA was reduced in ROIs representing the motor tracts in ALS patients. DTI with FA measurements is a promising method in this circumstance. However, for DTI to become a valuable and established method in the diagnostic workup of ALS, larger studies and further standardisation are warranted.

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