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The role of MRI in localisation of epileptogenic foci: how far have we come?


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Roland Wiest

Barbara Schauble

The role of MRI in localisation

of epileptogenic foci: how far

have we come?

Published online: 26 August 2005

Ó Springer-Verlag 2005

During the last decade, MR imaging has changed dramatically, from identification of gross structural abnormalities to in-depth analysis of ‘‘cryptogenic lesions’’— their ana-tomical extent as well as their func-tional significance.

Newly developed MR methods such as voxel based morphometry (VBM) have expanded our knowl-edge about partial epileptic syn-dromes. For example, structural involvement of the entorhinal cortex in mesial temporal epilepsy [7] (TLE)—the most common cause of refractory epilepsy—was recently identified. Ongoing seizures seem to correlate with progressive mesial temporal atrophy as demonstrated in longitudinal MR [4]. In addition, development of neocortical atrophy is related to seizure frequency, interpreted as seizure-induced neu-ronal loss, as well as involvement of extensive neocortical neuronal net-works [3].

Malformations of cortical devel-opment (MCD) are increasingly recognised as pathological substrate, and are currently the second most common cause for refractory partial epilepsy in adults. These lesions are hardly visible in routine MRI, but voxel-based 3-D MRI has the po-tential to increase the sensitivity to detect a MCD [5] by more than 30%. Whilst grey-matter abnormal-ities are preferentially delineated by VBM, associated white-matter

changes are probably best depicted by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). DTI provides information about the directionality and magnitude of the molecular motion of water, and is a promising method for delineating the extent of a cortical dysplasia into white matter [6].

The article ‘‘Evaluating func-tional MRI procedures for assessing hemispheric language dominance in neurosurgical patients’’ by Baciu and colleagues in this issue high-lights the significance of functional neuroimaging in the presurgical evaluation of refractory epilepsy patients.

FMRI has been widely used to identify eloquent areas in order to prevent language and memory impairment after removal of the epileptogenic focus. The authors have used four different language paradigms to delineate eloquent re-gions in patients with partial epi-lepsies. The sensitivity of two different methods quantifying the HLD were investigated. These re-sults were subsequently compared to various tests, such as WADA, elec-trocortical stimulation and surgical outcome as gold standards. By using the lateralisation index instead of predefined average magnitude mea-sures of the BOLD signal, concor-dant fMRI predictions of HLD were achieved in 73% of all patients. According to Baciu et al. [2] the most sensitive parameter for

HLD-Neuroradiology (2005) 47: 803–804

DOI 10.1007/s00234-005-1442-0 E D I T O R I A L

R. Wiest (&)

Institute for Diagnostic and Interventional Neuroradiology,

University Hospital of Berne, Inselspital, Berne, Switzerland

E-mail: roland.wiest@insel.ch B. Schauble

Section of EEG and Epileptology, Department of Neurology,

University Hospital of Berne, Inselspital, Berne, Switzerland


fMRI is a semantic association task, which showed a 100% concordance with the WADA test in a small number of patients. An earlier study by this group used a fMRI rhyme-detection paradigm with similar re-sults, which appears to be well suited for determining hemispheric lan-guage predominance in epileptic candidates for surgery. However, it seems questionable whether one single task can delineate all essential language areas sufficiently [8]. A single verbal fluency fMRI study proved to be less reliable in neocor-tical epilepsy than in TLE [10]. Comprehensive language paradigms may therefore be more suited for estimating language localisation and networks neighbouring removable

brain lesions. In addition to HLD, memory lateralisation in TLE pa-tients is essential for preoperative planning of anterior temporal resection and, at the individual sub-ject level, has positive predictive va-lue for memory decline in TLE patients [9].

Many promising tools emerge at this point, for example fMRI with simultaneously-recorded epilepti-form discharges on EEG (spike-trig-gered fMRI and continuous EEG/ fMRI recordings). The method might be useful to guide invasive EEG grid placement by exploring the irritative zone in focal epilepsies, even in the absence of structural abnormalities on conventional MRI [1]. In light of the fact that the irritative zone

fre-quently extends beyond the ictal on-set zone, further studies are needed to clearly delineate its value in the pre-surgical workup.

Other functional imaging tech-niques, e.g., ictal subtraction SPECT (SISCOM) or PET coregistered with structural MRI, have clearly im-proved patient outcome after resec-tive surgery for refractory epilepsy by delineating the ictal onset zone as well as associated networks.

Functional neuroimaging is a safe, reliable and cost-effective tool to demonstrate pathologies which are associated with partial epilepsies, and to serve as a screening tool to guide and perhaps replace invasive neurophysiological approaches in the future.


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