PURPOSE: Focal cortical dysplasia (FCD) is one of the most common underlying pathologic substrates in patients with medically intractable epilepsy. While magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) evidence of FCD is an important predictor of good surgical outcome, conventional MRI is not sensitive enough to detect all lesions. Previous reports of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) abnormalities in FCD suggest the potential of DTI in the detection of FCD. The purpose of this study was to study subcortical white matter underlying small lesions of FCD using DTI. METHODS: Five patients with medically intractable epilepsy and FCD were investigated. Diffusion tensor imaging images were acquired (20 contiguous 3 mm thick axial slices) with maps of fractional anisotropy (FA), trace apparent diffusion coefficient (trace/3 ADC), and principal eigenvalues (ADC parallel and ADC perpendicular to white matter tracts) being calculated for each slice. Region of interest analysis was used to compare subcortical white matter ipsilateral and contralateral to the lesion. RESULTS: Three subjects with FCD associated with underlying white matter hyperintensities on T2 weighted MRI were observed to have increased trace/3 ADC, reduced fractional anisotropy and increased perpendicular water diffusivity which was greater than the relative increase in the parallel diffusivity. No DTI abnormalities were identified in two patients with FCD without white matter hyperintensities on conventional T2-weighted MRI. CONCLUSIONS: While DTI abnormalities in FCD with obvious white matter involvement are consistent with micro-structural degradation of the underlying subcortical white matter, DTI changes were not identified in FCD lesions with normal appearing white matter.
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