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MRI signs of multiple system atrophy preceding the clinical diagnosis: the case for an imaging-supported probable MSA diagnostic category
  1. T A Mestre1,2,
  2. A Gupta1,3,
  3. A E Lang1
  1. 1Division of Neurology, Movement Disorders Centre and Edmond J. Safra Program in Parkinson's Disease, Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  2. 2Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, The Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Centre, Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
  3. 3Texas Movement Disorders, Texas Health Physician Group, and Movement Disorders Program, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, Dallas, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anthony E Lang, Movement Disorders Centre, Toronto Western Hospital, 399 Bathurst Street, MC-7 402, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5T 2S8; lang{at}

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Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterised by autonomic failure in the form of orthostatic hypotension, neurogenic bladder and impotence, in association with a variable combination of parkinsonism, cerebellar ataxia and pyramidal signs.1 MSA is divided into predominant parkinsonism (MSA-P) and cerebellar (MSA-C) forms. Current clinical diagnostic criteria for ‘probable MSA’ require prominent autonomic failure. However, it is widely recognised that these symptoms may develop long after motor features.2 In the case of MSA-P, early parkinsonism in the absence of significant autonomic failure may be impossible to differentiate from Parkinson's disease. Establishing a correct diagnosis early in the course of MSA has direct implications for prognosis and counselling of patients and family. The clinical research implications are broad, including exclusion of such patients from studies of Parkinson's disease and inclusion in studies on MSA, particularly those that would benefit from early diagnosis, such as trials of experimental disease-modifying therapies. The potential of brain MRI as a diagnostic tool for MSA has been studied3 and it has been incorporated in the current diagnostic criteria, though only as supportive criteria of ‘possible MSA’.4 It is unclear how brain MRI signs of MSA can predate its clinical diagnosis and …

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  • Contributors TAM was responsible for study design, data collection, data analysis, drafting of the manuscript. AG was responsible for data collection. AEL was responsible for study design and concept, data collection, data analysis, review of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None.

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

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