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Assessment of lesion pathology in multiple sclerosis using quantitative MRI morphometry and magnetic resonance spectroscopy

P. M. Matthews, E. Pioro, S. Narayanan, N. De Stefano, L. Fu, G. Francis, J. Antel, C. Wolfson, D. L. Arnold
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/119.3.715 715-722 First published online: 1 June 1996


Summary Quantitative measurement of MRI-defined brain lesions can provide an index of the extent and activity of disease in multiple sclerosis patients. However, the relationships between these indices and clinical features are not well-understood. Heterogeneity of the pathological changes underlying MRI lesions may be an important factor determining the correlation between MRI lesion volumes and clinical measures. Recent studies have suggested that with magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), it may be possible to define chemical changes that better reflect the pathological changes in multiple sclerosis. Here we report results of combined quantitative brain T2-weighted MRI lesion volume and proton MRS examinations that demonstrate heterogeneity of the chemical pathology underlying brain lesions in patients selected on the basis of similar clinical disability but differing with respect to the presence or absence of clinical relapses. We examined 29 patients with disease characterized by either clear relapses with at least partial remissions (RR) or secondary, chronic progression after an earlier history of a more relapsing and remitting course (SP). Total hemispheric lesion volume was greater (P <0.04) in the RR (32.5±20.9 cm3) than in the SP (16.2±9.0 cm3) patients, despire the longer duration of disease in the latter group. Central brain N-acetyl aspartate: creatine (NAA: Cr) ratios were reduced relative to normal controls (4.0±0.3. n = 19) by similar amounts in the two patient groups (RR. 3.1±0.5: SP, 3.2±0.4; P <0.0001). The ratio lesion volume: (NAA: Cr) was greater for the RR group (11.7±9.3 cm3) than for the SP group (5.4±3.3 cm3, P <0.05), implying a greater average degree of axonal loss per unit lesion volume defined by MRI for subjects in the SP group or, alternatively, a greater proportion of lesions without axonal damage or loss in the RR group. Our results emphasize a limitation of using T2-weighted MRI lesion volume alone and suggest that combined analysis of MR-based chemical and imaging data might allow improved non-invasive assessment of lesion pathology in order to better understand its relationship to clinical features of multiple sclerosis.

  • multiple selerosis
  • magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • MRI; pathology
  • N-acety1 aspartate