7T MRI scans can track lesion progression in MS patients

High-strength MRI scans can help providers track the development of cortical lesions in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to new research published in Radiology.

Conventional 3T MRI scanners are typically unable to see cortical lesions, the authors explained, so they turned to a 7T MRI scanner to track 20 patients with relapsing/remitting MS, 13 with secondary progressive MS and 10 age-matched healthy control subjects.

“Because 7T MRI is more sensitive to cortical lesions than lower-field MRI, we can detect many of these lesions that we couldn't see before and determine if they are strongly correlated with neurological disability and disease progression,” senior author Caterina Mainero, MD, PhD, from the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in a prepared statement. “In this study, we wanted to track the evolution of these lesions and better understand where in the cortex these lesions develop more frequently.”

Overall, 81% of MS patients participating in the study developed new cortical lesions. The 7T MRI scanner was able to detect these lesions at a more consistent rate than lower-field MRI scanners in previous studies.

The total volume of cortical lesions was found to be a predictor of neurological disability. Also, the high-strength scans helped the authors learn more about how these lesions develop.

“We showed that the cortical sulci are the regions where most of these lesions develop,” Mainero said in the same statement. “We also found that these lesions can predict disability progression more than white matter lesions, which are the typical lesions of MS we've been studying for years.”

Mainero described these findings as “another piece to the puzzle of understanding MS,” and the authors are now working to perform a similar study with a larger patient population.