White Matter Lesion Assessment in Patients with Cognitive Impairment and Healthy Controls: Reliability Comparisons between Visual Rating, a Manual, and an Automatic Volumetrical MRI Method-The Gothenburg MCI Study.

Research paper by Erik E Olsson, Niklas N Klasson, Josef J Berge, Carl C Eckerström, Ake A Edman, Helge H Malmgren, Anders A Wallin

Indexed on: 13 Feb '13Published on: 13 Feb '13Published in: Journal of aging research


Age-related white matter lesions (WML) are a risk factor for stroke, cognitive decline, and dementia. Different requirements are imposed on methods for the assessment of WML in clinical settings and for research purposes, but reliability analysis is of major importance. In this study, WML assessment with three different methods was evaluated. In the Gothenburg mild cognitive impairment study, MRI scans from 152 participants were used to assess WML with the Fazekas visual rating scale on T2 images, a manual volumetric method on FLAIR images, and FreeSurfer volumetry on T1 images. Reliability was acceptable for all three methods. For low WML volumes (2/3 of the patients), reliability was overall lower and nonsignificant for the manual volumetric method. Unreliability in the assessment of patients with low WML with manual volumetry may mainly be due to intensity variation in the FLAIR sequence used; hence, intensity standardization and normalization methods must be used for more accurate assessments. The FreeSurfer segmentations resulted in smaller WML volumes than the volumes acquired with the manual method and showed deviations from visible hypointensities in the T1 images, which quite likely reduces validity.