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A conventional and magnetization transfer MRI study of the cervical cord in patients with MS.

Neurology 2000 January 12
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the contribution made by cervical cord damage, assessed using a fast short-tau inversion recovery (fast-STIR) sequence and magnetization transfer ratio (MTR) histogram analysis to the clinical manifestations of MS.

BACKGROUND: Previous studies have failed to show significant correlations between the number and extent of T2 spinal cord lesions and the clinical status of patients with MS. Fast-STIR is more sensitive than T2-weighted imaging for detecting cervical cord MS lesions. MTR histogram analysis provides estimates of the overall disease burden in the cervical cord with higher pathologic specificity to the more destructive aspects of MS than T2-weighted scans.

METHODS: We obtained fast-STIR and magnetization transfer (MT) scans from 96 patients with MS (52 with relapsing-remitting [RRMS], 33 with secondary progressive [SPMS], and 11 with primary progressive [PPMS] MS) and 21 control subjects. Dual-echo scans of the brain were also obtained and lesion load measured.

RESULTS: Eighty-one of the patients with MS had an abnormal cervical cord scan. Patients with SPMS had more cervical cord lesions and more images with visible cervical cord damage than did patients with RRMS or PPMS (p = 0.04). The entire cohort of patients with MS had lower average MTR of the cervical cord (p = 0.006) than control subjects. Compared to control subjects, patients with RRMS had similar cervical cord MTR histogram-derived measures, whereas those with PPMS had lower average MTR (p = 0.01) and peak height (p = 0.02). Patients with SPMS had lower histogram peak height than did those with RRMS (p = 0.03). The peak position and height of the cervical cord MTR histogram were independent predictors of the probability of having locomotor disability. We found no correlation between brain T2 lesion load and any of the cervical cord MTR histogram metrics.

CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that the amount and severity of MS pathology in the cervical cord are greater in the progressive forms of the disease. An accurate assessment of cervical cord damage in MS gives information that can be used in part to explain the clinical manifestations of the disease.

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