Effectiveness of diffusion tensor imaging in assessing disease severity in Duchenne muscular dystrophy: preliminary study
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There is currently a lack of suitable objective endpoints to measure disease progression in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Emerging research suggests that diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has potential as an outcome measure for the evaluation of skeletal muscle injury.
The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential of DTI as quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) markers of disease severity in DMD.
Materials and methods
Thirteen consecutive boys (8.9 years ± 3.0 years) with DMD were evaluated using DTI. Fractional anisotropy (FA) and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) were compared with clinical outcome measures of manual muscle testing and MRI determinations of muscle fat fraction (MFF) in the right lower extremity.
Both MRI measures of FA and ADC strongly correlated with age and muscle strength. Values for FA positively correlated with age and negatively correlated with muscle strength (r = 0.78 and −0.96; both P ≤ 0.002) while measures of ADC negatively correlated age, but positively correlated with muscle strength (r = −0.87 and 0.83; both P ≤ 0.0004). Additionally, ADC and FA strongly correlated with MFF (r = −0.891 and 0.894, respectively; both P ≤ 0.0001). Mean MMF was negatively correlated with muscle strength (r = −0.89, P = 0.0001).
DTI measures of muscle structure strongly correlated with muscle strength and adiposity in boys with DMD in this pilot study, although these markers may be more reflective of fat replacement rather than muscle damage in later stages of the disease. Further studies in presymptomatic younger children are needed to assess the ability of DTI to detect early changes in DMD.
KeywordsDiffusion tensor imaging Muscle Magnetic resonance imaging Duchenne muscular dystrophy
Conflicts of interest
Dr. T. G. Perkins and Mr. J. M. Chia are employees of Philips Healthcare.
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