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BMC Neurol. 2010 Jan 21;10:9. doi: 10.1186/1471-2377-10-9.

Transcranial sonography for diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.

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Department of Neurology, Justus-Liebig University of Giessen, Giessen, Germany.



In idiopathic Parkinson's disease (IPD) transcranial sonography (TCS) represents an alternative diagnostic method to verify clinical diagnosis. Although the phenomenon of an increased echogenicity of the Substantia nigra (SN) is well known this method is still not widly used in the diagnostic workup. Until now reliability of this method is still a matter of debate, partly because data only existed from a few laboratories using the same ultrasound machine. Therefore our study was conducted to test the reliability of this method by using a different ultrasound device and examining a large population of control and IPD subjects by two examiners to calculate interobserver reliability.


In this study echogenicity of SN was examined in 199 IPD patients and 201 control subjects. All individuals underwent a neurological assessment including Perdue pegboard test and Webster gait test. Using a Sonos 5500 ultrasound device area of SN was measured, echogenicity of raphe, red nuclei, thalamus, caudate and lenticular nuclei, width of third and lateral ventricle were documented.


We found a highly characteristic enlargement of the SN echogenic signal in IPD. The cut-off value for the SN area was established using a ROC curve with a sensitivity of 95% corresponding to an area of SN of 0.2 cm2 and was found to be equivalent to the cut-off values of other studies using different ultrasound devices.


Our study shows that TCS is a reliable and highly sensitive tool for differentiation of IPD patients from individuals without CNS disorders.

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