MRI-based measurements used to diagnose progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) typically lack pathologic verification and are not easy to use routinely. We aimed to develop in histologically proven disease a simple measure of the midbrain and pons on sagittal MRI to identify PSP.
Measurements of the midbrain and pontine base on midsagittal T1-weighted MRI were performed in confirmed PSP (n = 12), Parkinson disease (n = 2), and multiple system atrophy (MSA) (n = 7), and in controls (n = 8). Using receiver operating characteristic curve analysis, cutoff values were applied to a clinically diagnosed cohort of 62 subjects that included PSP (n = 21), Parkinson disease (n = 10), MSA (n = 10), and controls (n = 21).
The mean midbrain measurement of 8.1 mm was reduced in PSP (p < 0.001) with reduction in the midbrain to pons ratio (PSP smaller than MSA; p < 0.001). In controls, the mean midbrain ratio was approximately two-thirds of the pontine base, in PSP it was <52%, and in MSA the ratio was greater than two-thirds. A midbrain measurement of <9.35 mm and ratio of 0.52 had 100% specificity for PSP. In the clinically defined group, 19 of 21 PSP cases (90.5%) had a midbrain measurement of <9.35 mm.
We have developed a simple and reliable measurement in pathologically confirmed disease based on the topography of atrophy in PSP with high sensitivity and specificity that may be a useful tool in the clinic.