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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Is MRI better than CT for detecting a vascular component to dementia? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Rebecca Beynon1, Jonathan A C Sterne1, Gordon Wilcock3, Marcus Likeman2, Roger M Harbord1, Margaret Astin1, Margaret Burke1, Alysson Bessell4, Yoav Ben-Shlomo1, James Hawkins1, William Hollingworth1 and Penny Whiting1*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Canynge Hall, 39 Whatley Road, Bristol, BS8 2PS, UK

2 Frenchay Hospital, Beckspool Road, Bristol, BS16 1LE, UK

3 Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headley Way, Headington, Oxford, OX3 9DU, UK

4 School of Oral and Dental Sciences, University of Bristol, Lower Maudlin Street, Bristol, BS1 2LY, UK

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BMC Neurology 2012, 12:33  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-12-33

Published: 6 June 2012

Abstract

Background

Identification of causes of dementia soon after symptom onset is important, because appropriate treatment of some causes of dementia can slow or halt its progression or enable symptomatic treatment where appropriate. The accuracy of MRI and CT, and whether MRI is superior to CT, in detecting a vascular component to dementia in autopsy confirmed and clinical cohorts of patients with VaD, combined AD and VaD (“mixed dementia”), and AD remain unclear. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate this question.

Methods

We searched eight databases and screened reference lists to identify studies addressing the review question. We assessed study quality using QUADAS. We estimated summary diagnostic accuracy according to imaging finding, and ratios of diagnostic odds ratios (RDORs) for MRI versus CT and high versus low risk of bias.

Results

We included 7 autopsy and 31 non-autopsy studies. There was little evidence that selective patient enrolment and risk of incorporation bias impacted on diagnostic accuracy (p = 0.12 to 0.95). The most widely reported imaging finding was white matter hyperintensities. For CT (11 studies) summary sensitivity and specificity were 71% (95% CI 53%-85%) and 55% (44%-66%). Corresponding figures for MRI (6 studies) were 95% (87%-98%) and 26% (12%-50%). General infarcts was the most specific imaging finding on MRI (96%; 95% CI 94%-97%) and CT (96%; 93%-98%). However, sensitivity was low for both MRI (53%; 36%-70%) and CT (52%; 22% to 80%). No imaging finding had consistently high sensitivity. Based on non-autopsy studies, MRI was more accurate than CT for six of seven imaging findings, but confidence intervals were wide.

Conclusion

There is insufficient evidence to suggest that MRI is superior to CT with respect to identifying cerebrovascular changes in autopsy-confirmed and clinical cohorts of VaD, AD, and ‘mixed dementia’.

Keywords:
Dementia; CT; MRI; Diagnosis; Systematic review