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Neurology. 1995 Mar;45(3 Pt 1):478-82.

A magnetization transfer imaging study of normal-appearing white matter in multiple sclerosis.

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Department of Neurology, Scientific Institute Ospedale San Raffaele, University of Milan, Italy.


We attempted to define the role of subtle changes in the normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) in the development of disability in multiple sclerosis (MS). Twenty-seven clinically definite MS patients with either relapsing-remitting or chronic-progressive courses and 10 sex- and age-matched controls entered the study. For each patient and control, we studied two NAWM areas in the frontal lobe with magnetization transfer imaging (MTI). For patients, we also calculated the MT ratios (MTRs) for three contiguous areas of NAWM progressively further from "isolated" lesions visible on conventional MRI. Frontal NAWM in MS patients had lower mean MTRs than the frontal white matter of the controls (p = 0.02). MTRs in the NAWM adjacent to isolated lesions increased with distance from them to the cortical gray matter (p = 0.04). This pattern was typical for patients with chronic-progressive MS whose MTRs in the first two regions of NAWM adjacent to lesions were lower than those of the same regions of patients with relapsing-remitting MS. This study confirms that there are alterations in the NAWM of MS patients and suggests that such changes might be relevant to the disability in MS.

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