Characterization of multifocal T2*-weighted MRI hypointensities in the basal ganglia of elderly, community-dwelling subjects

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Multifocal T2*-weighted (T2*w) hypointensities in the basal ganglia, which are believed to arise predominantly from mineralized small vessels and perivascular spaces, have been proposed as a biomarker for cerebral small vessel disease. This study provides baseline data on their appearance on conventional structural MRI for improving and automating current manual segmentation methods. Using a published thresholding method, multifocal T2*w hypointensities were manually segmented from whole brain T2*w volumes acquired from 98 community-dwelling subjects in their early 70s. Connected component analysis was used to derive the average T2*w hypointensity count and load per basal ganglia nucleus, as well as the morphology of their connected components, while nonlinear spatial probability mapping yielded their spatial distribution. T1-weighted (T1w), T2-weighted (T2w) and T2*w intensity distributions of basal ganglia T2*w hypointensities and their appearance on T1w and T2w MRI were investigated to gain further insights into the underlying tissue composition. In 75/98 subjects, on average, 3 T2*w hypointensities with a median total volume per intracranial volume of 50.3ppm were located in and around the globus pallidus. Individual hypointensities appeared smooth and spherical with a median volume of 12mm(3) and median in-plane area of 4mm(2). Spatial probability maps suggested an association between T2*w hypointensities and the point of entry of lenticulostriate arterioles into the brain parenchyma. T1w and T2w and especially the T2*w intensity distributions of these hypointensities, which were negatively skewed, were generally not normally distributed indicating an underlying inhomogeneous tissue structure. Globus pallidus T2*w hypointensities tended to appear hypo- and isointense on T1w and T2w MRI, whereas those from other structures appeared iso- and hypointense. This pattern could be explained by an increased mineralization of the globus pallidus. In conclusion, the characteristic spatial distribution and appearance of multifocal basal ganglia T2*w hypointensities in our elderly cohort on structural MRI appear to support the suggested association with mineralized proximal lenticulostriate arterioles and perivascular spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-480
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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