Cerebral microbleeds in MS, CIS patients associated with greater disability

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) and clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) are likelier to have cognitive and physical disabilities associated with their diseases if they also show a stronger presence of cerebral microbleeds, according to a new study in the journal Radiology.

The study looked at the MRI scans of about 700 participants, all with different levels of neurological health, to measure the prevalence of cerebral microbleeds across various groups of the study subjects.

The microbleeds show up on MRIs as small lesions, according to the study authors, showing where small amounts of blood are leaking in the brain. They are associated with aging, stroke and certain neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimers. This study set out to find out their relationship with MS and CIS.

The results were also analyzed across age groups. Researchers found that nearly 20 percent of the MS participating patients over 50 years old showed incidences of microbleeds, while only a little more than 7 percent of the healthy patients in the same age cohort showed similar bleeding.

On the other side of the age spectrum, patients with CIS younger than 50 also had more cerebral microbleeds—almost 14 percent of participants showed bleeding—while healthy control study participants with similar demographic characteristics showed only 3 percent incidence of microbleeds.

The results also showed that patients with MS were more likely to have more microbleeds at a younger age than healthy people, who tend to show some cerebral microbleeds associated with aging.

Learning more about the microbleeds themselves, such as location in the brain and size, could reveal more about these diseases and even about healthy brain function, study authors said.

“Evidence suggests that location of CMBs may provide more information about the underlying clinical phenotype and disease pathologic processes,” they wrote.

Study authors pointed out that these new findings support the idea of monitoring cerebral microbleeds in MS and CIS patients as an indicator of existing or increasingly severe cognitive and physical disabilities.