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Neurology. 2010 Jun 8;74(23):1868-76. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181e24136.

Assessing brain atrophy rates in a large population of untreated multiple sclerosis subtypes.

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Quantitative Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Neurological and Behavioural Sciences, University of Siena, Italy.



To assess the time course of brain atrophy and the difference across clinical subtypes in multiple sclerosis (MS).


The percent brain volume change (PBVC) was computed on existing longitudinal (2 time points) T1-weighted MRI from untreated (trial and nontrial) patients with MS. Patients (n = 963) were classified as clinically isolated syndromes suggestive of MS (CIS, 16%), relapsing-remitting (RR, 60%), secondary progressive (SP, 15%), and primary progressive (9%) MS. The median length of follow-up was 14 months (range 12-68).


There was marked heterogeneity of the annualized PBVC (PBVC/y) across MS subtypes (p = 0.003), with higher PBVC/y in SP than in CIS (p = 0.003). However, this heterogeneity disappeared when data were corrected for the baseline normalized brain volume. When the MS population was divided into trial and nontrial subjects, the heterogeneity of PBVC/y across MS subtypes was present only in the second group, due to the higher PBVC/y values found in trial data in CIS (p = 0.01) and RR (p < 0.001). The estimation of the sample sizes required for demonstrating a reduction of brain atrophy in patients in a placebo-controlled trial showed that this was larger in patients with early MS than in those with the progressive forms of the disease.


This first large study in untreated patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) with different disease subtypes shows that brain atrophy proceeds relentlessly throughout the course of MS, with a rate that seems largely independent of the MS subtype, when adjusting for baseline brain volume.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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