University of Oulu

Imaging of salivary glands and assessment of autonomic nervous system function in primary Sjögren’s syndrome

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Author: Niemelä, Raija1,2
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine
2University of Oulu, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Diagnostic Radiology
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2004
Publish Date: 2004-02-27
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, for public discussion in the Auditorium 1 of Oulu University Hospital, on February 27th, 2004, at 12 noon.
Reviewer: Professor Yrjö Konttinen
Docent Irma Soini


The purpose of the present study was to find reliable non-invasive methods for imaging salivary glands and diagnosing primary Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) and to evaluate autonomic function and central nervous system (CNS) disorders in patients with primary SS. The patient population consisted of consecutive patients with primary SS, who fulfilled the International classification criteria for primary SS, from the Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine in Oulu University Hospital.

Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and MR sialography of parotid glands were performed on 27 patients and 7 healthy controls and ultrasonography (US) of major salivary glands on 27 patients, 27 healthy controls, and 27 symptomatic controls with sicca symptoms or salivary gland swellings without SS. MR imaging and US showed heterogeneous parenchyma or adipose degeneration of the gland in 81% and 78% of patients, respectively. MR sialography showed ductal system changes, narrowings and dilatations, or cavities in 96% of patients. One healthy control and 2 symptomatic controls had abnormal findings of parotid or submandibular glands on US. Other controls had normal findings. The diagnostic specificity of US was 94%. Parenchymal structural changes on MR imaging and US were associated with anti-Ro/SSA positivity and weakly with the focus score index, but not with salivary or tear secretion, age, disease duration, or features of systemic activity of the disease, such as hypergammaglobulinemia or systemic complications.

A comprehensive package of cardiovascular tests, including 24-hour heart rate variability, baroreflex sensitivity test with phenylephrine, Valsalva manoeuvre, deep breathing tests, and active orthostatic test, were conducted on 30 patients and 30 healthy, age and sex-matched, randomly selected population-based controls. No signs of autonomic dysfunction were found in patients compared to controls in any of the tests. The test results were not associated with saliva or tear secretion, age, disease duration, or clinical features of systemic activity of the disease.

A case of severe inflammatory CNS disease associated with primary SS was described, and an investigation of the relevant literature was made. Though inflammatory CNS disease is a possible complication of primary SS, there is no consensus regarding its prevalence or significance in the literature. Diagnostics and treatment are empiric.

In conclusion, MR imaging, MR sialography, and US yield such a definitive picture of the glandular changes in primary SS that they are promising alternatives for invasive examinations in the diagnostics of primary SS. Comprehensive cardiovascular tests revealed no signs of autonomic dysfunction in patients with primary SS compared to general population.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. D, Medica
ISSN-E: 1796-2234
ISBN: 951-42-7275-7
ISBN Print: 951-42-7274-9
Issue: 777
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2004. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.