Study: MRI can illuminate the progression of multiple sclerosis

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According to results published in the September 2007 issue of Radiology, researchers have identified a new abnormality related to disease progression and disability in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).

The two most common types of MS are relapsing-remitting and secondary-progressive. Relapsing-remitting MS patients experience symptom flare-ups followed by periods of no disease progression, and secondary-progressive MS patients exhibit an initial period of relapsing-remitting MS, followed by steady disease progression.

Lead author Rohit Bakshi, MD, director of clinical MS-MRI at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Partners MS Center in Boston, and colleagues reviewed the T1 MRI data of 145 MS patients. They found 92 patients had relapsing-remitting MS, and 49 patients had secondary-progressive MS. The disease classification was unknown in four patients.

The researchers noted that the T1-weighted MR images of the brains of MS patients often depict bright areas called hyperintense lesions, also known as areas of T1 shortening. The analysis revealed 340 T1 hyperintense lesions in 123 patients and the lesions were more likely to be present in patients with secondary-progressive MS.

The total number of T1 hyperintense lesions was closely correlated with physical disability, disease progression and brain atrophy.
In the report, Bakshi said the results suggest that presence of multiple lesions indicate a risk for the advancement of MS, and he also stressed the importance of MR neuroimaging in the diagnosis and management of neurologic disorders such as MS.