New MRI technique offers faster diagnosis of multiple sclerosis

February 1, 2016 by Emma Rayner
New MRI technique offers faster diagnosis of multiple sclerosis

A new way of using MRI scanners to look for evidence of multiple sclerosis in the brain has been successfully tested by researchers at The University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition which affects around 100,000 people in the UK. It is notoriously difficult to diagnose as it has many symptoms but not all sufferers experience all of them and the disease can progress at different rates. MRI scans have been used as a diagnostic tool to detect lesions in the but these are not always an indicator of the disease.

Now a research team at Nottingham has found a way to use clinical MRI to distinguish between MS lesions and other brain white spots which are found in MS. The study is published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal.

Translational impact

They have used a clinical MRI scanner of the type all neuroscience centres have to carry out a special type of scan called a T2-weighted imaging process which is able to reveal lesions in the brain's white matter that are centred on a vein—a known indicator of MS.

Leading the work, Dr Nikos Evangelou, said: "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. 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."

Blinded trial

A total of 40 patients were recruited from the neurology outpatients' department of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. Initially a test cohort of 10 patients with MS and 10 patients with non-MS white brain matter lesions were scanned. Anonymised scans were analysed blinded to clinical data and simple diagnostic rules were devised. The same rules were applied to a validation cohort of 20 patients (13 with MS and 7 with other lesions) by a blinded observer.

Within the test cohort, all patients with MS had central veins in more than 45 per cent of brain lesions, while the rest had central veins visible in less than 45 per cent of . Then, by applying the same diagnostic rules to the second cohort, all the remaining patients were correctly categorised into MS or non-MS, by the blinded observer, taking less than two minutes per scan.

Significant results

The new study is significant because currently among patients referred to MS treatment centres with suspected MS, fewer than 50 per cent are found to have it. This shows that diagnosing MS in a significant minority of cases can be challenging.

The Nottingham University team has now started a new study examining patients with real uncertainty about the diagnosis and aim to extend the study in other UK towns so more can participate in this important research. It is possible that in less than two years we will know if this new test is accurate as it appears to be. In that case, the way we will be diagnosing MS will probably be quicker and more reliable. The Nottingham team has already presented their data in the US and a similar US based study is planned based on the Nottingham results.

Explore further: Eye scan could help track progress of multiple sclerosis

Related Stories

Eye scan could help track progress of multiple sclerosis

December 24, 2012

(HealthDay)—In-office eye scans that assess the thinning of the retina may also help doctors determine how fast multiple sclerosis (MS) is progressing in patients with the nervous system disease, a new study suggests.

Imaging scientists develop a better tool for tracking MS

May 27, 2014

Imaging scientists at Western University's Robarts Research Institute (London, Canada) have developed a better way to track the progression of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) from its earliest stages. Led by Ravi Menon, PhD, the ...

In MS patients, HDL cholesterol has a protective effect

September 30, 2015

Several studies in recent years have shown that high cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of lesions in the brains of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). However, the impact of HDL cholesterol—high-density ...

New study removes cancer doubt for multiple sclerosis drug

October 1, 2015

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) are calling on the medical community to reconsider developing a known drug to treat people with relapsing Multiple sclerosis (MS) after new evidence shows it does not ...

Recommended for you

The brain's super-sensitivity to curbs

July 27, 2016

Humans rely on boundaries like walls and curbs for navigation, and Johns Hopkins University researchers have pinpointed the areas of the brain most sensitive to even the tiniest borders.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

emmamott
not rated yet Mar 18, 2016


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system that disturbs the information's flow within the brain. There is no single test present for its diagnosis; however, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) has transformed the capacity to diagnose multiple sclerosis. A doctor will use different tools as present at ilexmedical.com along with the patient's medical history for diagnosing procedures. Even they will prescribe blood test, genetic test, imaging test, or immune function test.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.