Infratentorial MRI Findings in Rasmussen Encephalitis Suggest Primary Cerebellar Involvement

Background and Objective

Rasmussen encephalitis (RE) is characterized by its unilateral cerebral involvement. However, both ipsi- and contralesional cerebellar atrophy have been anecdotally reported raising questions about the nature and extent of infratentorial findings. Using MRI, we morphometrically investigated the cerebellum and hypothesized abnormalities beyond the effects of secondary atrophy, implicating a primary involvement of the cerebellum by RE.

Methods

Voxel-based morphometry of the cerebellum and brainstem was conducted in 57 patients with RE and in 57 matched controls. Furthermore, patient-specific asymmetry indices (AIs) of cerebellar morphometry and fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) intensity were calculated. Using diffusion tensor imaging, the integrity of the cortico-ponto-cerebellar (CPC) tract was assessed. Finally, a spatial independent component analysis (ICA) was used to compare atrophy patterns between groups.

Results

Patients with RE showed bilateral cerebellar and predominantly ipsilesional mesencephalic atrophy (p < 0.01). Morphometric AIs revealed ipsilesional contralesional asymmetry in 30 patients. In patients with predominant ipsilesional atrophy, morphometric AIs strongly correlated with FLAIR intensity AIs (r = 0.86, p < 0.0001). Fractional anisotropy was lower for ipsilesional-to-contralesional CPC tracts than opposite tracts (T = 2.30, p < 0.05). ICA revealed bilateral and strictly ipsi- and contralesional atrophy components in patients with RE (p < 0.05).

Discussion

We demonstrated atrophy of the ipsilesional-to-contralesional CPC pathway and, consequently, interpret the loss of contralesional gray matter as secondary crossed cerebellar atrophy. The ipsilesional cerebellar atrophy, however, defies this explanation. Based on FLAIR hyperintensities, we interpret ipsilesional atrophy to be due to inflammation in the scope of a primary involvement of the cerebellum by RE.

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