OBJECTIVE: To examine if there is widespread inflammation in the brain of patients with chronic lymphocytic inflammation with pontine perivascular enhancement responsive to steroids (CLIPPERS) syndrome by using histology and ultra-high-field MRI at 7.0T.
METHODS: We performed a detailed neuropathologic examination in 4 cases, including 1 autopsy case, and studied 2 additional patients by MRI at 7.0T to examine (1) extension of inflammation to areas appearing normal on 3.0T MRI, (2) potential advantages of 7.0T MRI compared to 3.0T MRI in reflecting widespread inflammation, perivascular pathology, and axonal damage, and (3) the possibility of lymphoma.
RESULTS: In the autopsy case, perivascular inflammation dominated by CD4+ T cells was not only detected in the brainstem and cerebellum but also in brain areas with normal appearance on 3.0T MRI, including supratentorial regions and cranial nerve roots. There was no evidence of lymphoma in any of the 4 patients. The 7.0T MRI in clinical remission also revealed supratentorial lesions and perivascular pathology in vivo with contrast-enhancing lesions centered around a small venous vessel. Ultra-high-field MRI at 7.0T disclosed prominent T1 hypointensities in the brainstem, which were not seen on 3.0T MRI. This corresponded to neuropathologic detection of axonal injury in the autopsy case.
CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest more widespread perivascular inflammation and postinflammatory axonal injury in patients with CLIPPERS.