Association of asymptomatic spinal cord lesions and atrophy with disability 5 years after a clinically isolated syndrome

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Brownlee, W. ; Altmann, D. R. ; Alves Da Mota, P. ; Swanton, J. K. ; Miszkeil, K. A. ; Wheeler-Kingshott, C. A. M. ; Ciccarelli, O. ; Miller, D. H. (2017)
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1177/1352458516663034
  • Subject: Clinically isolated syndrome, multiple sclerosis, MRI, spinal cord

BACKGROUND: Spinal cord pathology is an important substrate for long-term disability in multiple sclerosis (MS). OBJECTIVE: To investigate longitudinal changes in spinal cord lesions and atrophy in patients with a non-spinal clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), and how they relate to the development of disability. METHODS: In all, 131 patients with a non-spinal CIS had brain and spinal cord imaging at the time of CIS and approximately 5 years later (median: 5.2 years, range: 3.0–7.9 years). Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures consisted of T2-hyperintense and T1-hypointense lesion loads plus brain atrophy. Spinal cord MRI measures consisted of lesion number and the upper cervical cord cross-sectional area (UCCA). Disability was measured using the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). Multiple linear regression was used to identify independent predictors of disability after 5 years. RESULTS: During follow-up, 93 (71%) patients were diagnosed with MS. Baseline spinal cord lesion number, change in cord lesion number and change in UCCA were independently associated with EDSS (R2 = 0.53) at follow-up. Including brain T2 lesion load and brain atrophy only modestly increased the predictive power of the model (R2 = 0.64). CONCLUSION: Asymptomatic spinal cord lesions and spinal cord atrophy contribute to the development of MS-related disability over the first 5 years after a non-spinal CIS.
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