Diagnostic value of 18F-FDG PET/CT versus MRI in the setting of antibody-specific autoimmune encephalitis

Lilja B. Solnes, Krystyna M. Jones, Steven P. Rowe, Puskar Pattanayak, Abhinav Nalluri, Arun Venkatesan, John C. Probasco, Mehrbod S. JavaDi

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44 Scopus citations


Diagnosis of autoimmune encephalitis presents some challenges in the clinical setting because of varied clinical presentations and delay in obtaining antibody panel results. We examined the role of neuroimaging in the setting of autoimmune encephalitides, comparing the utility of 18F-FDG PET/CT versus conventional brain imaging with MRI. Methods: A retrospective study was performed assessing the positivity rate of MRI versus 18F-FDG PET/CT during the initial workup of 23 patients proven to have antibody-positive autoimmune encephalitis. 18F-FDG PET/CT stuDies were analyzed both qualitatively and semiquantitatively. Areas of cortical lobar hypo (hyper)-metabolism in the cerebrum that were 2 SDx from the mean were recorded as abnormal. Results: On visual inspection, all patients were identified as having an abnormal pattern of 18F-FDG uptake. In semiquantitative analysis, at least 1 region of interest with metabolic change was identified in 22 of 23 (95.6%) patients using a Discriminating z score of 2. Overall, 18F-FDG PET/ CT was more often abnormal during the Diagnostic period than MRI (10/23, 43% of patients). The predominant finDing on brain 18F-FDG PET/CT imaging was lobar hypometabolism, being observed in 21 of 23 (91.3%) patients. Hypometabolism was most commonly observed in the parietal lobe followed by the occipital lobe. An entire subset of antibody-positive patients, anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (5 patients), had normal MRI results and abnormal 18F-FDG PET/CT finDings whereas the other subsets demonstrated a greater heterogeneity. Conclusion: Brain 18F-FDG PET/CT may play a significant role in the initial evaluation of patients with clinically suspected antibody-meDiated autoimmune encephalitis. Given that it is more often abnormal when compared with MRI in the acute setting, this molecular imaging technique may be better positioned as an early biomarker of Disease so that treatment may be initiated earlier, resulting in improved patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1307-1313
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Altered mental status
  • Antibody specific encephalitis
  • Autoimmune encephalitis
  • MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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