Radiological hints for differentiation of cerebellar multiple system atrophy from spinocerebellar ataxia

Hung Chieh Chen, Li Hua Lee, Jiing Feng Lirng, Bing wen Soong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Differentiation cerebellar multiple systemic atrophy (MSA-C) from spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) is important. The “hot cross bun” sign (HCBS) at pons and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) are helpful. However, the prevalence of HCBS and the alteration of cerebellar MRS parameters are evolving with disease progression. We hypothesized that since the HCBS and MRS are evolving with time, different parameters for differentiation of MSA-C and SCA are required at different disease stages. The aim of this study was to evaluate the HCBS and MRS changes in patients with MSA-C and SCA at different disease stages. A total of 398 patients with molecularly confirmed SCA (SCA1, 2, 3, 6, 17) and 286 patients diagnosed with probable MSA-C (without mutations in SCA1, 2, 3, 6, 17 genes), who had received brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and MRS from January 2000 to January 2020, were recruited. Twenty-five patients were molecularly identified as having SCA1, 68 as SCA2, 253 as SCA3, 34 as SCA6, and 18 as SCA17. We compared their clinical parameters and neuroimaging features at different disease stages. The presence of HCBS was assessed using an axial T2 fast spin-echo or FLAIR sequence. Proton MRS was recorded with voxel of interest focusing on cerebellar hemispheres and cerebellar vermis and avoiding cerebrospinal fluid spaces space using a single-voxel stimulated echo acquisition mode sequence. We found that patients with MSA-C tend to have a higher prevalence of pontine HCBS, worse Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia scores, lower cerebellar N-acetyl aspartate (NAA)/creatinine (Cr), and choline (Cho)/Cr, compared to patients with SCA at corresponding disease stages. In MSA-C patients with a disease duration < 1 year and without pontine HCBS, a cerebellar NAA/Cr ≤ 0.79 is a good indicator of the possibility of MSA-C. By using the pontine HCBS and cerebellar MRS, discerning MSA-C from SCA became possible. This study provides cutoff values of MRS to serve as clues in differentiating MSA-C from SCAs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10499
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


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