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Serial proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in acute multiple sclerosis lesions

C. A. Davie, C. P. Hawkins, G. J. Barker, A. Brennan, P. S. Tofts, D. H. Miller, W. I. McDonald
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/117.1.49 49-58 First published online: 1 February 1994


Serial proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), was carried out at 1–2 monthly intervals on eight patients with multiple sclerosis who presented with evidence of a large acute cerebral white matter lesion. An MRS was obtained from acute lesions (volumes of interest 4–12 ml), which at presentation showed gadolinium-diethylenetriamine penta-acetic acid enhancement, and from similar volumes of normal appearing white matter lateral to the lesion and nearer the scalp. Followup ranged from 4 to 9 months (mean 6 months). Short echo spectra from acute enhancing lesions invariably showed the presence of large resonances at 0.9 and 1.3 p.p.m. compared with normal appearing white matter and healthy age matched controls, indicating that these peaks were not the result of voxel contamination from scalp fat. These resonances, which probably represent lipid products of myelin breakdown, were detected in lesions which had been enhancing for < 1 month and remained elevated for a mean of 5 months (range 4–8 months). The results provide evidence that short echo proton MRS can detect myelin breakdown products and that myelin breakdown occurs during the initial inflammatory stage of lesion development. The ratio of N-acetylaspartate (NAA) (a neuronal marker) relative to creatine was reduced in acute lesions and in normal appearing white matter. In six of the lesions studied there was, however, a subsequent rise in the NAA/creatine ratio indicating that axonal loss is not the only mechanism of reduction in the NAA/creatine ratio.

  • NMR spectroscopy
  • multiple sclerosis
  • demyelination
  • lipids
  • N-acetylaspartate

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