Movement disorders with parkinsonian features are common, and in recent years imaging has assumed a greater role in diagnosis and management. Thus, it is important that radiologists become familiar with the most common imaging patterns of parkinsonism, especially given the significant clinical overlap and diagnostic difficulty associated with these disorders. The authors review the most common magnetic resonance (MR) and molecular imaging patterns of idiopathic Parkinson disease and atypical parkinsonian syndromes. They also discuss the interpretation of clinically available molecular imaging studies, including assessment of cerebral metabolism with 2-[fluorine-18]fluoro-2-deoxy-d-glucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET), cortical amyloid deposition with carbon 11 (11C) Pittsburgh compound B and fluorine 18 (18F) florbetapir PET, and dopaminergic activity with iodine 123 (123I) ioflupane single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). Although no single imaging test is diagnostic, a combination of tests may help narrow the differential diagnosis. Findings at 123I ioflupane SPECT can confirm the loss of dopaminergic neurons in patients with parkinsonism and help distinguish these syndromes from treatable conditions, including essential tremor and drug-induced parkinsonism. FDG PET uptake can demonstrate patterns of neuronal dysfunction that are specific to a particular parkinsonian syndrome. Although MR imaging findings are typically nonspecific in parkinsonian syndromes, classic patterns of T2 signal change can be seen in multiple system atrophy and progressive supranuclear palsy. Finally, positive amyloid-binding PET findings can support the diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies. Combined with a thorough clinical evaluation, multimodality imaging information can afford accurate diagnosis, allow selection of appropriate therapy, and provide important prognostic information.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging