Decreased occipital lobe metabolism by FDG-PET/CT: An anti–NMDA receptor encephalitis biomarker

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To compare brain metabolism patterns on fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-PET/CT in anti–NMDA receptor and other definite autoimmune encephalitis (AE) and to assess how these patterns differ between anti–NMDA receptor neurologic disability groups.


Retrospective review of clinical data and initial dedicated brain FDG-PET/CT studies for neurology inpatients with definite AE, per published consensus criteria, treated at a single academic medical center over a 10-year period. Z-score maps of FDG-PET/CT were made using 3-dimensional stereotactic surface projections in comparison to age group–matched controls. Brain region mean Z scores with magnitudes ≥2.00 were interpreted as significant. Comparisons were made between anti–NMDA receptor and other definite AE patients as well as among patients with anti–NMDA receptor based on modified Rankin Scale (mRS) scores at the time of FDG-PET/CT.


The medial occipital lobes were markedly hypometabolic in 6 of 8 patients with anti–NMDA receptor encephalitis and as a group (Z = −4.02, interquartile range [IQR] 2.14) relative to those with definite AE (Z = −2.32, 1.46; p = 0.004). Among patients with anti–NMDA receptor encephalitis, the lateral and medial occipital lobes were markedly hypometabolic for patients with mRS 4–5 (lateral occipital lobe Z = −3.69, IQR 1; medial occipital lobe Z = −4.08, 1) compared with those with mRS 0–3 (lateral occipital lobe Z = −0.83, 2; p < 0.0005; medial occipital lobe Z = −1.07, 2; p = 0.001).


Marked medial occipital lobe hypometabolism by dedicated brain FDG-PET/CT may serve as an early biomarker for discriminating anti–NMDA receptor encephalitis from other AE. Resolution of lateral and medial occipital hypometabolism may correlate with improved neurologic status in anti–NMDA receptor encephalitis.

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