SPECT scan in somatization disorder patients: an exploratory study of eleven cases


  • Javier Garcia-Campayo ,

  • Concepcion Sanz-Carrillo ,

  • Teresa Baringo ,

  • Concepción Ceballos

  • Concepcion Sanz-Carrillo, Consultant Psychiatrist

  • Department of Psychiatry, San Jorge Hospital, Huesca, Spain

JavierGarcia-Campayo, Consultant Psychiatrist, Somatoform Disorders Unit, Department of Psychiatry (Correspondence); Teresa Baringo, Consultant, Nuclear Medicine Department; Concepción Ceballos, Research Assistant, Research Unit, Miguel Servet University Hospital and University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain. Address for correspondence: Avda. Cesáreo Alierta 47, 2° B, 50.008 Zaragoza, Spain. Email: jgarcamp@arrakis.es


Objective: There are no previous studies using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans in somatization disorder (SD) patients. The aim of this paper is to assess SPECT imaging abnormalities in SD patients and study any relation to laterality.

Method: Eleven SD patients from the Somatization Disorder Unit of Miguel Servet University Hospital, Zaragoza, Spain, not fulfilling criteria for any other psychiatric disorder and showing normal computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images were studied with SPECT. Patients with DSM-IV axis I comorbidity were ruled out because it has been demonstrated that SPECT scans can show abnormalities in patients with depression and anxiety disorders. The technique used for SPECT was 99mTc-D,1,hexamethylpropyleneamide-oxime (99mTc-HMPAO) in four patients and 99mTc-bicisate in the other seven. The SPECT scans were evaluated without knowledge of clinical data and entirely by visual inspection.

Results: Seven out of 11 (63.6%) SD patients showed hypoperfusion in SPECT imaging. In four cases there was hypoperfusion in the non-dominant hemisphere and the predominance of pain symptoms took place in the contralateral hemibody. In the other three patients hypoperfusion was bilateral. The anatomical regions affected were cerebellum (four cases), frontal and prefrontal areas (three cases), temporoparietal areas (two cases) and the complete hemisphere (one case).

Conclusions: A proportion of SD patients may present hypoperfusion in SPECT images, uni- or bilaterally, in different brain areas. Possible aetiological explanations for this finding are discussed. Controlled studies are necessary to confirm or refute this hypothesis.