Diagnostic Accuracy Using Diffusion Tensor Imaging in the Diagnosis of ALS. A Meta-analysis

Bradley R. Foerster, Ben A. Dwamena, Myria Petrou, Ruth C. Carlos, Brian C. Callaghan, Martin G. Pomper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Rationale and Objectives: A number of studies have reported decreases in fractional anistropy (FA) in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). The purpose of this study was to perform a meta-analysis in order to estimate the diagnostic test accuracy measures of DTI for the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Materials and Methods: We searched MEDLINE (1966-April 2011), EMBASE (1999-April 2011), CINAHL (1999-April 2011), and Cochrane (2005-April 2011) databases to identify studies that measured FA in ALS subjects. Human, single-center studies using a DTI region of interest (ROI) or tractography techniques were used to compare FA values along the brain corticospinal tracts between ALS subjects and healthy controls. There were no language restrictions. Independent extraction of articles by 2 authors using predefined data fields including study quality indicators. We identified 30 case-control studies that used region of interest or tractography DTI techniques. We applied binormal receiver operative characteristic (ROC) curve analysis to assign specificity and sensitivity for each study. We applied the bivariate mixed-effects regression model using the Markov Chain Monte Carlo Simulation to calculate summary estimates for the sensitivity and specificity. We used the metan module in Stata, version 11.0, to calculate the area under the ROC curve, diagnostic odds ratio and the test effectiveness summary estimates. Results: The pooled sensitivity was 0.65 (95% CI 0.61-0.69); the pooled specificity, 0.67 (95% CI 0.63-0.72); the pooled diagnostic odds ratio, 1.88 (95% CI 1.46-2.30); the pooled test effectiveness, 1.04 (95% CI 0.81-1.27); and the pooled area under the ROC curve, 0.76 (95% CI 0.71-0.81). Subanalyses comparing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) field strength (1.5T vs. 3.0T) and brain location (corticospinal tract average vs. internal capsule) revealed no significant differences in the test accuracy measures. Reference standard used for the diagnosis of ALS was the El Escorial criteria. There was at least moderate heterogeneity between the studies. True study quality is uncertain. Conclusion: The discriminatory capability of DTI to make a diagnosis of ALS is only modest. There were no significant differences in the diagnostic test accuracy summary estimates with respect to MRI field strength or brain location.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1075-1086
Number of pages12
JournalAcademic radiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Meta-analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Diagnostic Accuracy Using Diffusion Tensor Imaging in the Diagnosis of ALS. A Meta-analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this