Cushing’s disease (CD) may cause atrophy of different regions of the human brain, mostly affecting the hippocampus and the cerebellum. This study evaluates the use of 3-T MRI of newly diagnosed patients with CD to detect atrophic degeneration with voxel-based volumetry.
Subjects with newly diagnosed, untreated CD were included and underwent 3-T MRI. Images were analyzed using a voxelwise statistical test to detect reduction of brain parenchyma. In addition, an atlas-based volumetric study for regions likely to be affected by CD was performed.
Nineteen patients with a mean disease duration of 24 months were included. Tumor markers included adre-nocorticotropic hormone (median 17.5 pmol/L), cortisol (949.4 nmol/L), and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (5.4 μmol/L). The following values are expressed as the mean ± SD. The voxelwise statistical test revealed clusters of significantly reduced gray matter in the hippocampus and cerebellum, with volumes of 2.90 ± 0.26 ml (right hippocampus), 2.89 ± 0.28 ml (left hippocampus), 41.95 ± 4.67 ml (right cerebellar hemisphere), and 42.11 ± 4.59 ml (left cerebellar hemisphere). Healthy control volunteers showed volumes of 3.22 ± 0.25 ml for the right hippocampus, 3.23 ± 0.25 ml for the left hippocampus, 50.87 ± 4.23 ml for the right cerebellar hemisphere, and 50.42 ± 3.97 ml for the left cerebellar hemisphere.
Patients with untreated CD show significant reduction of gray matter in the cerebellum and hippocampus. These changes can be analyzed and objectified with the quantitative voxel-based method described in this study.