The role for [18F]FDG-PET in supporting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) diagnosis is not fully established. In this study, we aim at evaluating [18F]FDG-PET hypo- and hyper-metabolism patterns in spinal- and bulbar-onset ALS cases, at the single-subject level, testing the diagnostic value in discriminating the two conditions, and the correlations with core clinical symptoms severity.
We included 95 probable-ALS patients with [18F]FDG-PET scan and clinical follow-up. [18F]FDG-PET images were analyzed with an optimized voxel-based-SPM method. The resulting single-subject SPM-t maps were used to: (a) assess brain regional hypo- and hyper-metabolism; (b) evaluate the accuracy of regional hypo- and hyper metabolism in discriminating spinal vs. bulbar-onset ALS; (c) perform correlation analysis with motor symptoms severity, as measured by ALS-FRS-R.
Primary motor cortex showed the most frequent hypo-metabolism in both spinal-onset (∼57%) and bulbar-onset (∼64%) ALS; hyper-metabolism was prevalent in the cerebellum in both spinal-onset (∼56.5%) and bulbar-onset (∼55.7%) ALS, and in the occipital cortex in bulbar-onset (∼62.5%) ALS. Regional hypo- and hyper-metabolism yielded a very low accuracy (AUC < 0.63) in discriminating spinal- vs. bulbar-onset ALS, as obtained from single-subject SPM-t-maps. Severity of motor symptoms correlated with hypo-metabolism in sensorimotor cortex in spinal-onset ALS, and with cerebellar hyper-metabolism in bulbar-onset ALS.
The high variability in regional hypo- and hyper-metabolism patterns, likely reflecting the heterogeneous pathology and clinical phenotypes, limits the diagnostic potential of [18F]FDG-PET in discriminating spinal and bulbar onset patients.