Iron-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging in Parkinson’s disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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Objective: To evaluate the diagnostic performance of iron-sensitive sequences targeting the substantia nigra for distinguishing patients with Parkinson’s disease from control participants and to identify factors causing heterogeneity. Methods: A systematic literature search in the Ovid-MEDLINE and EMBASE databases was performed for studies reporting the relevant topic before March 6, 2020. The pooled sensitivity and specificity values with their 95% confidence intervals were calculated using bivariate random-effects modeling. Subgroup and meta-regression analyses were also performed to determine factors influencing heterogeneity affecting the diagnostic performance among the clinical, MRI, and analytic characteristics. Results: A total of 22 articles including 1126 patients with Parkinson’s disease and 933 control participants were enrolled in this systematic review and meta-analysis. Of those, 12 studies used objective analyses of quantitative susceptibility measurements, and 10 visually assessed the nigrosome-1 in subjective analyses. Iron-sensitive nigral magnetic resonance imaging showed a pooled sensitivity of 92% (95% confidence interval 88–95%) and a pooled specificity of 90% (95% confidence interval 81–95%). According to subgroup and meta-regression analyses, a longer mean disease duration in patients with Parkinson’s disease (≥ 5 years), subjective analysis, a smaller size of pixel (< 0.6 mm2), a larger flip angle (> 15°), a smaller slice thickness (≤ 1 mm), and specific targeting of the substantia nigra pars compacta improved the diagnostic performance. Conclusion: Iron-sensitive nigral magnetic resonance imaging had a favorable diagnostic performance in discriminating patients with Parkinson’s disease from control participants. Subjective analytic methods remain superior to objective approaches. Further improvements of the spatial resolution and contrast-to-noise ratio to specifically target the nigrosome-1 with objective analytic methods will be needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4721-4736
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neurology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Meta-analysis
  • Parkinson disease
  • Systematic review


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