Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Spinal cord gray matter atrophy is associated with functional decline in post-polio syndrome.

OBJECTIVE: To determine if patients with post-polio syndrome (PPS) show spinal cord gray matter (SCGM) atrophy and to assess associations between SCGM atrophy, muscle strength and patient-reported functional decline.

METHODS: Twenty patients diagnosed with PPS (March of Dimes criteria) and 20 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (HC) underwent 3T axial 2D-rAMIRA magnetic resonance imaging at the intervertebral disc levels C2/C3-C6/C7, T9/T10 and the lumbar enlargement level (Tmax ) (0.5 × 0.5 mm2 in-plane resolution). SCGM areas were segmented manually by two independent raters. Muscle strength, self-reported fatigue, depression and pain measures were assessed.

RESULTS: Post-polio syndrome patients showed significantly and preferentially reduced SCGM areas at C2/C3 (p = 0.048), C3/C4 (p = 0.001), C4/C5 (p < 0.001), C5/C6 (p = 0.004) and Tmax (p = 0.041) compared to HC. SCGM areas were significantly associated with muscle strength in corresponding myotomes even after adjustment for fatigue, pain and depression. SCGM areaTmax together with age and sex explained 68% of ankle dorsiflexion strength variance. No associations were found with age at or time since infection. Patients reporting PPS-related decline in arm function showed significant cervical SCGM atrophy compared to stable patients adjusted for initial disease severity.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with PPS show significant SCGM atrophy that correlates with muscle strength and is associated with PPS-related functional decline. Our findings suggest a secondary neurodegenerative process underlying SCGM atrophy in PPS that is not explained by aging or residua of the initial infection alone. Confirmation by longitudinal studies is needed. The described imaging methodology is promising for developing novel imaging surrogates for SCGM diseases.

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