Contribution of frontal cerebral blood flow measured by (99m)Tc-Bicisate spect and executive function deficits to predicting treatment outcome in alcohol-dependent patients


Aim: To determine whether inhibition and working memory deficits, and reduced regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) (previously shown to be related), measured at the end of a detoxification programme, predict alcoholic relapse 2 months later.

Methods: Twenty uncomplicated alcoholic inpatients were investigated at the end of detoxification, at least 7 days since the last dose of diazepam, and a mean of 18.8 days since the last drink. Their performance was assessed on the inhibition (Hayling) test, working memory (Alpha-span task), episodic memory (California Verbal Learning Test) and abstract reasoning (Progressive Matrices). Frontal CBF was assessed at the same time with a semiquantitative (99m)Tc-Bicisate SPECT procedure. Patients were contacted 2 months later. Patients who abstained (n = 9) did not differ from those who relapsed (n = 11) on age, gender, smoking, duration of alcohol misuse, number of previous detoxifications, amount of ethanol consumed the month prior to admission to the detoxification programme, state anxiety, trait anxiety, or depression.

Results: Relapsed subjects had shown a lower uptake of (99m)Tc-Bicisate in the bilateral medial frontal gyrus (n = 9; mean ratio +/- SD = 0.69 +/- 0.006) than abstainers (n = 11; 0.85 +/- 0.19), and poorer performance on the Alpha-span task and the Hayling test. The other tests were not different.

Conclusions: Inhibition and working memory deficits, associated with low levels of CBF in the medial frontal gyrus, are related to the difficulty of maintaining short-term abstinence from alcohol.

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