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Handb Clin Neurol. 2014;122:405-25. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-52001-2.00017-0.

MRI outcomes in the diagnosis and disease course of multiple sclerosis.

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Oregon Health and Sciences University and Portland VA Medical Center, Portland, OR, USA. Electronic address:


Despite major advances in MRI, including practical implementations of multiple quantitative MRI methods, the conventional measures of focal, macroscopic disease remain the core MRI outcome measures in clinical trials. MRI enhancing lesion counts are used to assess inflammation, and new T2-lesions provide an index of (interval) activity between scans. These simple MRI measures also have immediate significance for early diagnosis as components of the 2010 revised dissemination in space and time criteria, and they provide a mechanism to monitor the subclinical disease in patients, including after treatment is initiated. The focal macroscopic injury, which includes demyelination and axonal damage, is at least partially linked to the diffuse injury through pathophysiologic mechanisms, such as secondary degeneration, but the diffuse diseases is largely independent. Quantitative measures of the more widespread pathology of the normal appearing white and gray matter currently remain applicable to populations of patients rather than individuals. Gray matter pathology, including focal lesions of the cortical gray matter and diffuse changes in the deep and cortical gray has emerged as both early and clinically relevant, as has atrophy. Major technical improvements in MRI hardware and pulse sequence design allow more specific and potentially more sensitive treatment metrics required for targeting outcomes most relevant to neuronal degeneration, remyelination and repair.


MRI; atrophy; clinical trials; diagnosis; enhancement; gray matter; lesion load; lesion volume; magnetic resonance imaging; normal appearing white matter; outcomes

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