Cutolo M, Nobili F, Sulli A, Pizzorni C, Briata M, Faelli F, Vitali P, Mariani G, Copello F, Seriolo B, Barone C, Rodriguez G.
To investigate regional cerebral blood flow by (99m)Tc-hexamethylpropylenamineoxime (HMPAO) single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) in a series of 40 patients (mean age 58.5+/-11.5 yr) affected by systemic sclerosis (SSc) in comparison with age-matched healthy controls.
Subjects affected by concomitant severe pathologies that might interfere with the interpretation of the SPECT results were excluded. SPECT findings were correlated with the severity of peripheral microvascular involvement, as assessed by nailfold videocapillaroscopy (NVC). Whenever possible, patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain.
Twenty-one SSc patients (52%) showed hypoperfusion in two or more regions of interest (ROIs) at the SPECT analysis. MRI was available in 14 of these patients, and was shown to be altered in eight of them (57%). One patient with both abnormal SPECT and abnormal MRI was affected by mild cognitive impairment. Transcranial Doppler sonography was normal in all but one of these patients with hypoperfusion. Nineteen patients exhibited a normal brain SPECT scan, but the MRI was shown to be altered in 3/12 of them (25%). No significant differences were found between the group of SSc patients showing hypoperfusion and those showing a normal SPECT scan regarding age, the duration of disease, the presence of vascular risk factors or damage of other organs typically involved in the disease, and the severity of peripheral microvascular involvement (NVC).
Focal or diffuse cerebral hypoperfusion was found in more than half of the neurologically asymptomatic SSc patients studied, paralleling the incidence of altered brain MRI. The hypoperfusion was not linked to ageing and possibly reflects the cerebral location of the microangiopathic process characterizing the disease.