Diagnostic Value of Positron Emission Tomography Imaging in Clinically Unresponsive Patients

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British Journal of Radiology

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Rapid advancements in the critical care management of acute brain injuries have facilitated the survival of numerous patients who may have otherwise succumbed to their injuries. The probability of conscious recovery hinges on the extent of structural brain damage and the level of metabolic and functional cerebral impairment, which remain challenging to assess via laboratory, clinical, or functional tests. Current research settings and guidelines highlight the potential value of Fluorodeoxyglucose-Positron Emission Tomography (FDG-PET) for diagnostic and prognostic purposes, emphasizing its capacity to consistently illustrate a metabolic reduction in cerebral glucose uptake across various disorders of consciousness. Crucially, FDG-PET might be a pivotal tool for differentiating between patients in the Minimally Conscious State (MCS) and those in the Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome (UWS), a persistent clinical challenge. In patients with disorders of consciousness, PET offers utility in evaluating the degree and spread of functional disruption, as well as identifying irreversible neural damage. Further, studies that capture responses to external stimuli can shed light on residual or revived brain functioning. Nevertheless, the validity of these findings in predicting clinical outcomes calls for additional long-term studies with larger patient cohorts suffering from consciousness impairment. Misdiagnosis of conscious illnesses during bedside clinical assessments remains a significant concern. Based on the clinical research settings, current clinical guidelines recommend PET for diagnostic and/or prognostic purposes. This review article discusses the clinical categories of conscious disorders and the diagnostic and prognostic value of PET imaging in clinically unresponsive patients, considering the known limitations of PET imaging in such contexts.



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Computer Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences

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Open Access