In studies of cerebral glucose metabolism utilising positron emission tomography (PET) with 18F-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose, patients with the clinical picture of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) have shown predominantly frontal glucose hypometabolism. This is presumed to represent deafferentation of cerebral cortical from subcortical structures. In these studies, however, the diagnosis of PSP has not been verified by pathological examination. Necropsy examinations were performed in three patients with the clinical features of PSP in whom PET had demonstrated predominantly frontal hypometabolism. In two of these patients the diagnosis of PSP was confirmed pathologically, and no morphological abnormalities were found in the cerebral cortex. The third patient had extensive cortical and subcortical neuronal loss and gliosis without neurofibrillary tangles, consistent with the diagnosis of progressive subcortical gliosis (PSG). Even in retrospect no unique clinical neurological abnormality or finding on laboratory investigation could be identified that distinguished this latter patient from those with pathologically confirmed PSP. We conclude that PSG and PSP may be indistinguishable during life, and necropsy confirmation is needed for definite diagnosis.
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