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15.07.2016 | Original Article | Ausgabe 11/2016 Open Access

European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging 11/2016

A PET/CT approach to spinal cord metabolism in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging > Ausgabe 11/2016
Cecilia Marini, Angelina Cistaro, Cristina Campi, Andrea Calvo, Claudia Caponnetto, Flavio Mariano Nobili, Piercarlo Fania, Mauro C. Beltrametti, Cristina Moglia, Giovanni Novi, Ambra Buschiazzo, Annalisa Perasso, Antonio Canosa, Carlo Scialò, Elena Pomposelli, Anna Maria Massone, Maria Caludia Bagnara, Stefania Cammarosano, Paolo Bruzzi, Silvia Morbelli, Gianmario Sambuceti, Gianluigi Mancardi, Michele Piana, Adriano Chiò



In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, functional alterations within the brain have been intensively assessed, while progression of lower motor neuron damage has scarcely been defined. The aim of the present study was to develop a computational method to systematically evaluate spinal cord metabolism as a tool to monitor disease mechanisms.


A new computational three-dimensional method to extract the spinal cord from 18F-FDG PET/CT images was evaluated in 30 patients with spinal onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and 30 controls. The algorithm identified the skeleton on the CT images by using an extension of the Hough transform and then extracted the spinal canal and the spinal cord. In these regions, 18F-FDG standardized uptake values were measured to estimate the metabolic activity of the spinal canal and cord. Measurements were performed in the cervical and dorsal spine and normalized to the corresponding value in the liver.


Uptake of 18F-FDG in the spinal cord was significantly higher in patients than in controls (p < 0.05). By contrast, no significant differences were observed in spinal cord and spinal canal volumes between the two groups. 18F-FDG uptake was completely independent of age, gender, degree of functional impairment, disease duration and riluzole treatment. Kaplan-Meier analysis showed a higher mortality rate in patients with standardized uptake values above the fifth decile at the 3-year follow-up evaluation (log-rank test, p < 0.01). The independence of this value was confirmed by multivariate Cox analysis.


Our computational three-dimensional method enabled the evaluation of spinal cord metabolism and volume and might represent a potential new window onto the pathophysiology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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