New MRI technique speeds up MS diagnosis

British researchers at the University of Nottingham have successfully tested a new method for diagnosing multiple sclerosis (MS) using commonly available MRI scanners, according to a university press release. The study was published in Multiple Sclerosis Journal.

The researchers used clinical MRI scanners to perform a special type of scan—a T2-weighted imaging process—to reveal lesions in the brain’s white matter that are centered on a vein, a known indicator of MS.

“We already knew that large research MRI scanners could detect the proportion of lesions with a vein in the brain’s white matter, but these scanners are not clinically available,” said lead author Nikos Evangelou, MD. “So we wanted to find out whether a single brain scan in [a hospital scanner] could also be effective in distinguishing between patients known to have MS and patients known to have non-MS brain lesions.”

The researchers first performed the scans on a test cohort, finding that all patients with MS had central veins in more than 45 percent of brain lesions, while the remaining patients had central veins visible in less than 45 percent of lesions. They then applied the same diagnostic rules to the second cohort, which resulted in correct categorization into MS or non-MS by a blinded observer in less than two minutes per scan.

“We are excited to reveal that our results show that clinical application of this technique could supplement existing diagnostic methods for MS,” Evangelou said.

The team is already conducting more research into the new method, scanning more patients with uncertain MS diagnoses.

“It is possible that in less than two years we will know if this new test is accurate as it appears to be,” the university said in the release. “In that case, the way we will be diagnosing MS will probably be quicker and more reliable.”