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Brain MRI abnormalities in neuromyelitis optica.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to explore brain MRI findings in neuromyelitis optica (NMO) and to investigate specific brain lesions with respect to the localization of aquaporin-4 (AQP-4). MATERIALS AND METHODS: Forty admitted patients (36 women) who satisfied the 2006 criteria of Wingerchuk et al. for NMO were included in this study. All patients received a neurological examination and MRI scanning including brain and spinal cord. MRIs were classified as normal, nonspecific, multiple sclerosis-like, typical abnormalities. MS-like lesions were too few to satisfy the Barkhof et al. criteria for MS. Confluent lesions involving high AQP-4 regions were considered typical. Non-enhancing deep white matter lesions other than MS-like lesions or typical lesions were classified as nonspecific. RESULTS: Brain MRI lesions were delineated in 12 patients (25%). Four patients (10%) had hypothalamus, brainstem or periventricle lesions. Six (15%) patients were nonspecific, and 2 (5%) patients had multiple sclerosis-like lesions. CONCLUSION: Brain MRIs are negative in most NMO, and brain lesions do not exclude the diagnosis of NMO. Hypothalamus, brainstem or periventricle lesions, corresponding to high sites of AQP-4 in the brain, are indicative of lesions of NMO.

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