Magnetic resonance imaging findings in patients presenting with (sub)acute cerebellar ataxia

Tanja Schneider, Götz Thomalla, Einar Goebell, Anna Piotrowski, David Mark Yousem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Introduction: Acute or subacute cerebellar inflammation is mainly caused by postinfectious, toxic, neoplastic, vascular, or idiopathic processes and can result in cerebellar ataxia. Previous magnetic resonance (MR) studies in single patients who developed acute or subacute ataxia showed varying imaging features. Methods: Eighteen patients presenting with acute and subacute onset of ataxia were included in this study. Cases of chronic-progressive/hereditary and noncerebellar causes (ischemia, multiple sclerosis lesions, metastasis, bleedings) were excluded. MR imaging findings were then matched with the clinical history of the patient. Results: An underlying etiology for ataxic symptoms were found in 14/18 patients (postinfectious/infectious, paraneoplastic, autoimmune, drug-induced). In two of five patients without MR imaging findings and three of eight patients with minimal imaging features (cerebellar atrophy, slight signal alterations, and small areas of restricted diffusion), adverse clinical outcomes were documented. Of the five patients with prominent MR findings (cerebellar swelling, contrast enhancement, or broad signal abnormalities), two were lost to follow-up and two showed long-term sequelae. Conclusion: No correlation was found between the presence of initial MRI findings in subacute or acute ataxia patients and their long-term clinical outcome. MR imaging was more flagrantly positive in cases due to encephalitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-559
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 27 2015


  • Acute cerebellar ataxia
  • Clinical outcome
  • Infection
  • Magnetic resonance imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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