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Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2004 Oct;58(5):516-21.

White matter hyperintensities in subjects with bipolar disorder.

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  • 1Mclean Brain Imaging Center and Harvard Medical School, Belmont, MA, USA.


There have been divergent reports on the prevalence and severity of white matter hyperintensities (WMH) on brain magnetic resonance (MR) images in subjects with bipolar disorder. In the present study, evaluations were made on the prevalence and severity of WMH in subjects with bipolar disorder using contiguous 3-mm thick MR slices as well as fluid attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) images. A detailed WMH rating system was employed to assess these WMH. A total of 43 bipolar patients, as diagnosed by the Structured Clinical Interview from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV (SCID-IV), and 39 healthy comparison subjects were scanned using a 1.5-T whole body GE magnetic resonance scanner. WMH were assessed with a modified composite version of the Fazekas' and Coffey's rating scales to detect less severe WMH. Periventricular and subcortical WMH were coded separately. Subjects with bipolar disorder had greater prevalence of WMH abnormalities than comparison subjects (Bipolar, grade 1 = 11.6%, grade 2 = 9.3%, grade 3 = 7.0%; Comparison, grade 1 = 5.1%, grade 2 = 2.6%, grade 3 = 0%). This difference is mainly due to the differences in deep WMH (Bipolar, grade 1 = 14.0%, grade 2 = 14.0%; Comparison, grade 1 = 7.7%, grade 2 = 0%). The current study confirms the higher prevalence of WMH in subjects with bipolar disorder. Differences of small-sized WMH abnormalities between groups were successfully detected using a large number of bipolar subjects and thinner sliced MR images with FLAIR.

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