Abstract

Background

Manual width measurements of the middle cerebellar peduncle on MRI were shown to improve the accuracy of an imaging‐guided diagnosis of multiple system atrophy (MSA). Recently, automated volume segmentation algorithms were able to reliably differentiate patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and the parkinsonian variant of MSA. The objective of the current study was to integrate probabilistic information of the middle cerebellar peduncle into an existing MRI atlas for automated subcortical segmentation and to evaluate the diagnostic properties of the novel atlas for the differential diagnosis of MSA (parkinsonian and cerebellar variant) versus PD.

Methods

Three Tesla MRI scans of 48 healthy individuals were used to establish an automated whole‐brain segmentation procedure that includes the volumes of the putamen, cerebellar gray and white matter, and the middle cerebellar peduncles. Classification accuracy of segmented volumes were tested in early‐stage MSA patients (18 MSA‐parkinsonism, 13 MSA‐cerebellar) and 19 PD patients using a C4.5 classifier.

Results

Putaminal and infratentorial atrophy were present in 77.8% and 61.1% of MSA‐parkinsonian patients, respectively. Four of 18 MSA‐parkinsonian patients (22.2%) had infratentorial atrophy without evidence of putaminal atrophy. Infratentorial atrophy was present in all MSA‐cerebellar patients, with concomitant putaminal atrophy in 46.2% of these cases. The diagnostic algorithm using putaminal and infratentorial volumetric information correctly classified all PD patients and 96.8% of MSA patients.

Conclusions

The middle cerebellar peduncle was successfully integrated into a subcortical segmentation atlas, and its excellent diagnostic accuracy outperformed existing volumetric MRI processing strategies in differentiating MSA patients with variable atrophy patterns from PD patients. © 2019 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society

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