We delineated the effects of magnetic field strength on signal intensities to facilitate the specific findings of multiple system atrophy (MSA). Fifteen patients with probable MSA were imaged by 0.35T fast spin-echo (FSE), 1.5T FSE, and 3.0T FSE using a consistent protocol, testing all field strengths on the same day. Sixty patients with probable Parkinson's disease (PD) also underwent imaging. Moderate or marked hyperintensity at the dorsolateral outer putaminal margin, hyperintensity of the putaminal body, hypointensity relative to the globus pallidus at the dorsolateral putaminal margin, and infratentorial signal changes were evaluated as specific findings for MSA. As the field strength increased, the occurrence of hyperintensity both at the dorsolateral outer putaminal margin and of the putaminal body decreased, while the occurrence of hypointensity at the dorsolateral putaminal margin increased in MSA. The occurrence of uniform mild hyperintensity of the outer putaminal margin was evident in 7% at 0.35T, 40% at 1.5T, and 47% at 3.0T in MSA and in 5% at 0.35T, 60% at 1.5T, and 75% at 3.0T in PD. However, no PD patients showed hyperintensity at the dorsolateral outer putaminal margin and that of the putaminal body. Putaminal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings in MSA were altered considerably by magnetic field strength. The severity and distribution of signal changes are important for assessing putaminal MRI findings in MSA.
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