J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 67:457-462 doi:10.1136/jnnp.67.4.457
  • Paper

Basal ganglia alterations and brain atrophy in Huntington’s disease depicted by transcranial real time sonography

  1. Th Posterta,
  2. B Lacka,
  3. W Kuhna,
  4. M Jergasc,
  5. J Andricha,
  6. B Braunc,
  7. H Przunteka,
  8. R Sprengelmeyera,
  9. M Agelinkb,
  10. Th Büttnera
  1. aDepartment of Neurology, bDepartment of Psychiatry, cDepartment of Radiology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany
  1. Dr Th Postert, Department of Neurology, St Josef Hospital, Ruhr-University Bochum, Gudrunstrasse 56, 44791 Bochum, Germany.
  • Received 10 December 1998
  • Revised 22 April 1999
  • Accepted 7 May 1999


OBJECTIVES AND METHODS Transcranial real time sonography (TCS) was applied to 49 patients with Huntington’s disease and 39 control subjects to visualise alterations in the echotexture of the basal ganglia. For comparison T1 weighted, T2 weighted, and fast spin echo MRI was performed in 12 patients with Huntington’s disease with and in nine patients without alterations of the basal ganglia echotexture as detected by TCS and T1 weighted, T2 weighted, and fast spin echo MRI. Furthermore, the widths of the frontal horns, third ventricle, and the lateral ventricles were depicted in TCS examinations and correlations examined with corresponding CT slices.

RESULTS Eighteen out of 45 (40%) of the patients with Huntington’s disease with adequate insonation conditions showed hyperechogenic lesions of at least one basal ganglia region. In 12 patients TCS depicted hyperechogenic lesions of the substantia nigra; in six patients the head of the caudate nucleus was affected. The lentiform nucleus (n=3) and the thalamus (n=0) were less often affected or spared. Hyperechogenic lesions were significantly more frequent in patients with Huntington’s disease than in 39 control subjects, who had alterations of the echotexture in 12.8% (4/39) of the examinations. The number of CAG repeats and the clinical status correlated with the identification of hyperechogenic lesions of the substantia nigra (p<0.01). Hyperechogenic lesions of the caudate nucleus were associated with an increased signal intensity in T2 weighted MR images (p<0.05). All TCS parameters indicating brain atrophy correlated with CT findings (p<0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS TCS detects primarily abnormalities of the caudate nucleus and substantia nigra in Huntington’s disease. These changes in the echotexture may represent degenerative changes in the basal ganglia matrix and are partially associated with CAG repeat expansion and the severity of clinical findings.


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