J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2003 Feb;74(2):203-7
Wilson M, Tench CR, Morgan PS, Blumhardt LD.
Division of Clinical Neurology, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham University, Nottingham, UK. Division of Academic Radiology, Nottingham University.
Current magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) outcome measures such as T2 lesion load correlate poorly with disability in multiple sclerosis. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of the brain can provide unique information regarding the orientation and integrity of white matter tracts in vivo.
To use this information to map the pyramidal tracts of patients with multiple sclerosis, investigate the relation between burden of disease in the tracts and disability, and compare this with more global magnetic resonance estimates of disease burden.
25 patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and 17 healthy volunteers were studied with DTI. An algorithm was used that automatically produced anatomically plausible maps of white matter tracts. The integrity of the pyramidal tracts was assessed using relative anisotropy and a novel measure (L(t)) derived from the compounded relative anisotropy along the tracts. The methods were compared with both traditional and more recent techniques for measuring disease burden in multiple sclerosis (T2 lesion load and "whole brain" diffusion histograms).
Relative anisotropy and L(t) were significantly lower in patients than controls (p < 0.05). Pyramidal tract L(t) in the patients correlated significantly with both expanded disability status scale (r = -0.48, p < 0.05), and to a greater degree, the pyramidal Kurtzke functional system score (KFS-p) (r = -0.75, p < 0.0001). T2 lesion load and diffusion histogram parameters did not correlate with disability.
Tract mapping using DTI is feasible and may increase the specificity of MRI in multiple sclerosis by matching appropriate tracts with specific clinical scoring systems. These techniques may be applicable to a wide range of neurological conditions.