The contribution of Magnetic Resonance Imaging techniques to the clinical prognosis of Multiple Sclerosis.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic technique with a high sensitivity for the detection of lesions, but with a poor pathological specificity.
In the case of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), the improvement of diagnostic efficacy depends on a careful analysis of the clinical presentation.
And the use of increasingly stringent MRI criteria aimed at improving the specificity of the conventional MRI T2 sequences.
New sequences such as Fast Spin-Echo (also called Turbo Spin-Echo) and FLAIR (Fluid Attenuated Inversion Recovery, a method derived from inversion recovery) have improved the visualization of Lesions.
MRI can under certain conditions be used to monitor the evolution of MS. Acute-phase monitoring is focused on observed changes in disease activity.
Such as the appearance, recurrence or extension of lesions after i.v. injection of contrast medium, i.e., Gadolinium (Gd)-enhanced MRI.
In the chronic phase, the lesion is the aspect used as the monitoring criterion. However, MRI is still only a secondary criterion in Phase III Therapeutic Trials due to its insufficient correlation with the disability.
In Neurological daily practice, conventional MRI is only of limited interest at the individual level in patient follow-up, as its prognostic value is poor.
Moreover, the difficulty in determining the Lesion Load can only be excluded in the context of clinical trials, in which certain methodological precautions are taken.
This is why techniques other than MRI are being investigated to obtain a better correlation with the clinical course of the disease.
For instance the quantification of 'Black Holes' on T1 weighted images, and the measurement of Cerebral and Spinal Atrophy.
Adapted MRI techniques allow a weighted signal to be obtained:
- Diffusion Imaging - via the movement of water
- Magnetization Transfer Imaging - by the complexity of the molecular structure
- Spectroscopic Imaging - by chemical shift
- Functional MRI - by local Oxygenation
These new MRI techniques allow a more precise assessment of the pathological mechanisms involved in MS.
Such as Edema, Blood-Brain Barrier break-down, DeMyelination, Gliosis, Cellular infiltration and Axonal Loss.
They provide a better means of establishing the correlation between clinical impact and the destructive nature of the MS lesion.
The importance of Axonal Loss has recently been confirmed in MS by analyzing MRI Spectroscopic and NeuroPathological findings.
In addition to Magnetization Transfer Imaging, MR Diffusion Imaging and Functional MRI are being intensively studied in order to assess their contribution to the study of reversibility of the degenerative process.