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Magnetic Resonance Imaging Investigation of Secondary Degeneration of the Mesencephalic Substantia Nigra After Cerebral Infarction

      Secondary degeneration of the mesencephalic substantia nigra after cerebral infarction is widely known to occur in animal experiments, but has yet to be sufficiently investigated in human cerebral infarction. This study investigated the background and features of patients exhibiting secondary degeneration of the mesencephalic substantia nigra. The subjects comprised 43 patients admitted to our hospital for cerebral infarction between April 2007 and October 2010 showing secondary degeneration of the mesencephalic substantia nigra on cranial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We investigated clinical disease type, location of vascular occlusion, lesion site, and time from onset of symptoms to lesion identification by MRI. The clinical disease type was cardiogenic embolism in 29 patients (67%), atheromatous embolism (artery to artery) in 8 patients (19%), embolism (origin unknown) in 2 patients (5%), infarction after coil embolization for internal carotid aneurysm in 1 patient (2%), arterial dissection in 2 patients (5%), and vasculitis due to Takayasu disease in 1 patient (2%). Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) identified the occluded vessel as the internal carotid artery in 19 patients (44%), the middle cerebral artery (M1) in 20 patients (47%), and the middle cerebral artery (M2) in 3 patients (7%); MRA was not performed in 1 patient (2%). The cerebral infarctions were striatal in 7 patients (16%) and striatal and cortical in 36 patients (84%). Hyperintense regions in the mesencephalic substantia nigra were observed in all patients after 7-28 days (mean, 13.3 days) on diffusion-weighted imaging or fluid-attenuated inversion recovery and T2-weighted MRI. Most patients with secondary degeneration of the substantia nigra demonstrated clinical disease comprising vascular occlusion of the internal carotid artery or the neighborhood of the middle cerebral artery, which was envisaged to cause a sudden drop in brain circulation across a wide area. Striatal infarctions were observed in all patients. Secondary degeneration of the substantia nigra appeared at 1-4 weeks after onset and disappeared after several months.

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