The use of positron emission tomographic scanning in epilepsy


  • Dr. Jerome Engel Jr. MD, PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Departments of Neurology and Anatomy, the Laboratory of Nuclear Medicine, and the Brain Research Institute, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90024
    • Reed Neurological Research Center, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90024
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Positron emission tomography (PET) with fluorine-18-labeled fluorodeoxyglucose (18FDG) has demonstrated the epileptogenic lesion in partial epilepsy to be hypometabolic interictally. This finding is useful for localizing the area of resection when surgical therapy is contemplated. 18FDG scans during partial seizures show increased metabolism in areas of ictal onset and spread and in other regions of decreased metabolism that could reflect postictal effects. In the generalized epilepsies, petit mal absences and generalized convulsions induced by electroconvulsive shock therapy (ECT) are associated with global hypermetabolism, while global hypometabolism is seen in the postictal period following ECT. More information about the factors that influence the interictal hypometabolic zone in partial epilepsy should improve the diagnostic value of this finding for presurgical localization and perhaps also for the evaluation of other therapeutic regimens. New techniques for more dynamic PET studies with improved resolution, combined with computerized electroencephalographic analysis, should allow more accurate interpretation of ictal, as well as interictal, phenomena. Application of PET technology to other paroxysmal disorders may provide a basis for new diagnostic classifications that have therapeutic and prognostic value and may allow clearer differentiation among epileptic phenomena, myoclonus, and movement disorders. More clinical and animal research is needed, however, before we can delineate fundamental mechanisms of human epilepsy from PET data. To this end, it is now possible to use combined multidisciplinary parallel approaches in patients and animals to define specific aspects of epileptic disorders clinically, to intensively investigate them with experimental models in the animal laboratory, and to verify the relevance of these experimental results by returning to clinical studies.