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Radiology. 1992 Apr;183(1):247-56.

Alterations in brain phosphorus metabolite concentrations associated with areas of high signal intensity in white matter at MR imaging.

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  • 1Magnetic Resonance Unit, Veterans Administration Medical Center, San Francisco, CA 94121.


Areas of high signal intensity in white matter are identified on brain magnetic resonance (MR) imaging studies in 25%-50% of elderly subjects. The authors used phosphorus-31 MR spectroscopy to characterize the metabolic status of hemispheric white matter brain volumes in 30 elderly subjects with white matter areas of high signal intensity at MR imaging. Compared with white matter volumes with no or minimal areas of high intensity, white matter volumes with extensive areas of high intensity evidenced a 26% decrease in the adenosine triphosphate (ATP)/inorganic phosphate (Pi) ratio (P = .03) and a 21% decrease in the ATP concentration (P = .05), with the Pi level unchanged. A pilot P-31 spectroscopic imaging study in a subject with a large, coalescing white matter area of high signal intensity demonstrated large reductions in metabolite concentrations in the high-signal-intensity area. These results suggest that extensive white matter areas of high signal intensity indicate a process that affects white matter cellular energy metabolism.

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