Early differential diagnosis between Tourette's syndrome and chronic tic disorder is difficult but important because both the outcome and the treatment of these two childhood-onset diseases are distinct. We assessed the sensitivity and specificity of brain single-photon emission tomography (SPET) perfusion imaging in distinguishing the two diseases, and characterized their different cerebral perfusion patterns. Twenty-seven children with Tourette's syndrome and 11 with chronic tic disorder (mean age 9.5 and 8.6 years, respectively) underwent brain SPET with technetium-99m hexamethylpropylene amine oxime (HMPAO). Visual interpretation and semi-quantitative analysis of SPET images were performed. On visual interpretation, 22 of 27 (82%) of the Tourette's syndrome group had lesions characterized by decreased perfusion. The left hemisphere was more frequently involved. None of the children with chronic tic disorder had a visible abnormality. Semi-quantitative analysis showed that, compared with children with chronic tic disorder, children with Tourette's syndrome had significantly lower perfusion in the left lateral temporal area and asymmetric perfusion in the dorsolateral frontal, lateral and medial temporal areas. In conclusion, using the visual approach, brain SPET perfusion imaging is sensitive and specific in differentiating Tourette's syndrome and chronic tic disorder. The perfusion difference between the two groups, demonstrated by semi-quantitative analysis, may be related more to the co-morbidity in Tourette's syndrome than to tics per se.
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