Brain 2002 Feb;125(Pt 2):327-37
Chard DT, Griffin CM, Parker GJ, Kapoor R, Thompson AJ, Miller DH.
NMR Research Unit, Department of Clinical Neurology, Institute of Neurology, University College London, UK.
Brain atrophy measured by MRI is a potentially useful tool for monitoring disease progression in multiple sclerosis.
The location, extent and mechanisms of brain atrophy in early disease are not well documented.
Using quantitative MRI, this study investigated whole brain, grey and white matter atrophy in clinically early relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and its relationship to lesion measures.
Data came from 27 normal control subjects (14 females and 13 males, mean age 36.1 years) and 26 subjects with clinically definite multiple sclerosis (18 females and eight males, mean age 35.1 years, mean delay from first symptom to scan 1.8 years, median Expanded Disability Status Scale score 1.0).
All had three-dimensional fast spoiled gradient recall (3D FSPGR), T(1)-weighted pre- and post-gadolinium-enhanced and T(2)-weighted scans.
The 3D FSPGR images were automatically segmented into grey and white matter and cerebrospinal fluid using SPM99. 3D FSPGR hypo-intense, T(2) hyper-intense, T(1) hypo-intense and T(1) post-gadolinium-enhancing lesion volumes were determined by semi-automatic lesion segmentation.
The SPM99 output was combined with the 3D FSPGR lesion segmentations to quantify tissue volumes as fractions of total intracranial volumes, producing values for the brain parenchymal fraction (BPF), white matter fraction (WMF) and grey matter fraction (GMF).
Comparing multiple sclerosis with control subjects, BPF, GMF and WMF were significantly reduced (P < 0.001 for all tissue fractions).
Using Pearson correlations, T(2) hyper-intense and T(1) hypo-intense lesion volumes were inversely related to BPF (T(2) r = -0.78, P < 0.001; T(1) r = -0.59, P = 0.002) and GMF (T(2) r = -0.73, P < 0.001; T(1) r = -0.53, P = 0.006), but not WMF (T(2) r = -0.30, P = 0.134; T(1) r = -0.26, P = 0.199).
T(1) post-gadolinium-enhancing lesion volumes were not correlated with any fractional volumes.
These results indicate that significant brain atrophy, affecting both grey and white matter, occurs early in the clinical course of multiple sclerosis.
The lack of correlation between lesion load measures and WMF suggests that pathological changes in white matter may occur by mechanisms which are at least partly independent from overt lesion genesis in early multiple sclerosis.