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Arch Neurol. 2002 Jun;59(6):999-1005.

Echogenicity of the substantia nigra: association with increased iron content and marker for susceptibility to nigrostriatal injury.

Author information

1
Department of Neurology, University of Würzburg, Josef-Schneider-Str 11, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. daniela.berg@mail.uni-wuerzburg.de

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Patients with Parkinson disease characteristically exhibit an increased echogenicity of the substantia nigra (SN) on transcranial sonography, a new neuroimaging technique. The same echo feature of the SN can be identified in 9% of healthy adults.

OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate the relevance of the echogenic SN in healthy adults.

DESIGN:

In the first part of the study, 10 healthy subjects younger than 40 years with a distinct SN hyperechogenicity underwent extensive neurological, motor, neuropsychological, and fluorine 18-dopa positron emission tomographic ([18F]-dopa PET) examinations. Results were compared with those of 10 subjects with a low echogenic SN. In the second part of the study, the postmortem brains of 20 patients without extrapyramidal disorders during their lifetime were sonographically examined with a particular focus on SN echogenicity. Subsequently, one half of the brain was prepared for heavy metal analysis, the other for a histological examination.

RESULTS:

Healthy subjects with SN hyperechogenicity exhibited a significant reduction of the [18F]-dopa uptake, especially in the putamen (Wilcoxon matched pair test: left side, P =.006; right side, P =.009), whereas their neuropsychological and motor performance were normal. Postmortem studies showed that the echogenicity of the SN correlated with its iron content.

CONCLUSIONS:

Increased echogenicity of the SN, characteristically seen in Parkinson disease, is related to a functional impairment of the nigrostriatal system (even in young healthy adults) that can be revealed by [18F]-dopa PET studies. Substantia nigra hyperechogenicity is related to a higher tissue iron level, which is known to enhance the cells' generation of reactive oxygen specimens. Therefore, we hypothesize that transcranial sonography may identify a susceptibility marker for the development of nigral injury that can be detected early in life, prior to the onset of Parkinson disease.

PMID:
12056937
DOI:
10.1001/archneur.59.6.999
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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