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Clinical relevance of brain volume changes in patients with cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis
  1. S Guerrera1,2,
  2. M L Stromillo1,
  3. A Mignarri1,
  4. M Battaglini1,
  5. S Marino2,
  6. C Di Perri1,
  7. A Federico1,
  8. M T Dotti1,
  9. N De Stefano1
  1. 1Department of Neurological and Behavioural Sciences, University of Siena, Siena, Italy
  2. 2IRCCS Centro Neurolesi “Bonino Pulejo”, Messina, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr N De Stefano, Neurology and Neurometabolic Unit, Department of Neurological and Behavioural Sciences, University of Siena, Viale Bracci 2, 53100 Siena, Italy; destetfano{at}


Objective To quantify total and regional brain damage in subjects with cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis (CTX) using MR based quantitative measures.

Background CTX is a rare inherited disorder characterised by progressive neurological impairment. Appropriate therapy can slow disease progression. Measures of brain volume changes have been used in several neurological disorders due to their value in assessing disease outcome and monitoring patients' evolution.

Methods 24 CTX patients underwent conventional MRI to measure total and regional brain volumes. In five CTX patients who started therapy at baseline, clinical and MRI examinations were repeated after 2 years. Clinical disability, overall cognitive performance and cerebellar function were evaluated using the modified Rankin Scale (RS), Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE) and cerebellar functional system score (CB-FSS).

Results Measures of normalised brain, cortical and cerebellar volumes were lower in CTX patients than in healthy controls (p<0.01). Instead, there were no differences in normalised white matter volumes between the two groups (p=0.1). At regional analysis, a significant volume decrease was found in each cortical region (p<0.01 for all regions). Normalised cortical volumes correlated closely with age (r=−0.9, p<0.0001), RS (r=−0.65, p<0.001) and MMSE (r=−0.60, p<0.01). Normalised cerebellar volumes correlated closely with CB-FSS scores (r=−0.58, p<0.01). In the five CTX patients followed over time, the annual brain volume decrease was −1.1±0.2%.

Conclusions Cortical volume, rather than white matter volume, is diffusely decreased in CTX patients and correlates closely with the patient's clinical status. These data provide evidence for the presence of clinically relevant neuronal–axonal damage in the brains of CTX patients.

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the ethics committee of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Siena.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.