MRI Scanners May Lead to Improved Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis

MS is difficult to diagnose because progression of the disease occurs at different rates.

Researchers have successfully tested a new way to use MRI scanners on multiple sclerosis (MS) patients for a faster diagnosis.

Investigators at The University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust used a clinical MRI to determine the difference between MS lesions and brain spots found in MS.

"We already knew that large research MRI scanners could detect the proportion of lesions with a vein in the brain's white matter, but these scanners are not clinically available,” said lead researcher Nikos Evangelou, PhD. “So we wanted to find out whether a single brain scan in an NHS hospital scanner could also be effective in distinguishing between patients known to have MS and patients known to have non-MS brain lesions. We are excited to reveal that our results show that clinical application of this technique could supplement existing diagnostic methods for MS."

In a blinded study group, researchers scanned 10 MS patients and 10 non MS patients with white brain matter lesions. A second blinded group included 13 MS patients and 7 lesion patients.

The results of the study showed that out of all of the patients with MS, 45% had lesions with central veins. Next, researchers applied the same diagnostic rules to the second group, categorizing the patients into MS or non-MS correctly, in less than 2 minutes per scan.

MS is difficult to diagnose because not all patients will experience the numerous symptoms in MS and the progression of the disease occurs at different rates.

Although MRI scans can detect white brain matter lesions, it is not always an accurate indicator of the disease. The results of the current study shows significant promise because less than 50% of patients referred to MS treatment centers end up not having the disease.

Currently, researchers have a new study underway that examines patients who are uncertain about their diagnosis. The study will be extended to other towns in order to expand participation.

The data gathered from the study has already been presented in the United States, with a similar future study taking place based off of the results found by the Nottingham researchers.

If the test is proven to be accurate, this could make diagnoses faster and more reliable.