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Multiple sclerosis lesions and atrophy in the spinal cord: Distribution across vertebral levels and correlation with disability.

Neuroimage Clin. 2022;34:103006. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2022.103006. Epub 2022 Apr 13. PMID: 35468568; PMCID: PMC9059154.

Authors/Editors: Bussas M, El Husseini M, Harabacz L, Pineker V, Grahl S, Pongratz V, Berthele A, Riederer I, Zimmer C, Hemmer B, Kirschke JS, Mühlau M.
Publication Date: 2022



Background: The vast majority of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies on multiple sclerosis (MS) covered the spinal cord (SC), if at all, incompletely.

Objective: To assess SC involvement in MS, as detectable by whole SC MRI, with regard to distribution across vertebral levels and relation to clinical phenotypes and disability.

Methods: We investigated SC MRI with sagittal and axial coverage. Analyzed were brain and SC MRI scans of 17 healthy controls (HC) and of 370 patients with either clinically isolated syndrome (CIS, 27), relapsing remitting MS (RRMS, 303) or progressive MS (PMS, 40). Across vertebral levels, cross-sectional areas were semiautomatically segmented, and lesions manually delineated.

Results: The frequency of SC lesions was highest at the level C3-4. The volume of SC lesions increased from CIS to RRMS, and from RRMS to PMS whereas lesion distribution across SC levels did not differ. SC atrophy was demonstrated in RRMS and, to a higher degree, in PMS; apart from an accentuation at the level C3-4, it was evenly distributed across SC levels. SC lesions and atrophy volume were not correlated with each other and were independently associated with disability.

Conclusion: SC lesions and atrophy already exist at the stage of RRMS in the whole SC with an accentuation in the cervical enlargement; SC lesions and atrophy are more pronounced in the stage of PMS. Both contribute to the clinical picture but are largely independent.

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