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Twenty per cent of patients with bipolar affective disorder suffer an illness that responds inadequately to treatment and has a poor outcome. Many patients, but not all, with bipolar disorder show white matter abnormalities on T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
To explore the hypothesis that white matter abnormalities on MRI are seen more frequently in subjects whose illness has a poor outcome compared with those with a good outcome or controls.
Two groups of age- and gender-matched patients with bipolar disorder (14 with a good outcome and 15 with a poor outcome) and 15 controls, aged 20–65 years, were studied. Axial T2-weighted MRI scans were examined for the presence and severity of white matter abnormalities.
Significantly more poor outcome group members had deep subcortical punctate, but not periventricular, white matter hyperintensities than the good outcome group (P=0.035) or controls (P=0.003) and these abnormalities were of greater severity (P=0.030 and P < 0.014, respectively).
Subcortical white matter lesions are associated with poor outcome bipolar disorder.
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