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Neurology. 1995 Jun;45(6):1122-6.

Blood-brain barrier disruption on contrast-enhanced MRI in patients with mild relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: relationship to course, gender, and age.

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  • 1Neuroimmunology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


MRI has provided insight into the pathophysiology and course of MS, particularly through the use of a paramagnetic contrast agent that allows visualization of blood-brain barrier (BBB) breakdown. Neither the overall frequency of BBB breakdown in MS patients nor the characteristics associated with BBB breakdown in MS are known. We studied 68 relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) patients with three monthly MRIs to examine these questions. Seventy-eight percent of the RRMS patients studied had evidence of BBB breakdown on at least one MRI. While there was a great deal of variability among patients in terms of mean enhancing lesion frequency, BBB breakdown was associated with younger age at onset of disease, measured by age at first symptom or age at diagnosis, and more severe disease as measured by Expanded Disability Status Scale scores equal to or greater than 4.0. We found no relationship between BBB breakdown and duration of disease or gender. We conclude that BBB breakdown is a relatively common phenomenon in RRMS patients and may be most commonly found in patients with more aggressive disease and younger onset. These findings have implications for clinical trials that use MRI as an outcome measure.

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