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Echogenicity of the substantia nigra in Parkinson's disease and its relation to clinical findings

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Recently an increased echogenicity of the substantia nigra (SN) in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) was demonstrated by transcranial ultrasound (TCS). In this study we set out to compare SN echogenicitiy with disease characteristics (time of onset, duration, toxin exposure) in a large patients sample. Patients' history and exposure to toxins were recorded from 112 PD patients who underwent a thorough neurological examination including assessment of disease stage according to Hoehn and Yahr and CURS (Columbia University Rating Scale). Personality was assessed according to the Freiburg Personality Inventory. In all patients the area of SN echogenicity was encircled and measured by TCS. All except 9 patients had hyperechogenic SN areas exceeding the mean plus standard deviation values of an age matched control group (0.19cm2). The age of disease onset was lower in patients who displayed an area of SN echogenicity above this value. The area of SN echogenicity was larger contralateral to the side with more severe symptoms. None of the other characteristics correlated with ultrasound findings. We conclude that SN hyperechogenicity is a typical finding in PD. The cause of hyperechogenicity is so far unknown. Investigation of the underlying reason might disclose a pathogenic factor in PD.

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Received: 13 November 2000 / Received in revised form: 24 January 2001 / Accepted: 19 February 2001

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Berg, D., Siefker, C. & Becker, G. Echogenicity of the substantia nigra in Parkinson's disease and its relation to clinical findings. J Neurol 248, 684–689 (2001).

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