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Eur J Neurol. 2017 Aug;24(8):1040-1046. doi: 10.1111/ene.13329. Epub 2017 Jun 6.

Spinal cord multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging for survival prediction in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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Laboratoire d'Imagerie Biomédicale, CNRS, INSERM, Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, Paris, France.
Department of Neurology, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, NY, USA.
Département de Neurophysiologie, APHP, Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris, France.
Institut des Neurosciences Translationnelles, Institut Du Cerveau Et De La Moelle Épinière - IHU-A-ICM, Paris, France.
Département des Maladies du Système Nerveux, Centre référent SLA, APHP, Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière Paris, Paris, France.



Assessing survival is a critical issue in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Neuroimaging seems to be promising in the assessment of disease severity and several studies also suggest a strong relationship between spinal cord (SC) atrophy described by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and disease progression. The aim of the study was to determine the predictive added value of multimodal SC MRI on survival.


Forty-nine ALS patients were recruited and clinical data were collected. Patients were scored on the Revised ALS Functional Rating Scale and manual muscle testing. They were followed longitudinally to assess survival. The cervical SC was imaged using the 3 T MRI system. Cord volume and cross-sectional area (CSA) at each vertebral level were computed. Diffusion tensor imaging metrics were measured. Imaging metrics and clinical variables were used as inputs for a multivariate Cox regression survival model.


On building a multivariate Cox regression model with clinical and MRI parameters, fractional anisotropy, magnetization transfer ratio and CSA at C2-C3, C4-C5, C5-C6 and C6-C7 vertebral levels were significant. Moreover, the hazard ratio calculated for CSA at the C3-C4 and C5-C6 levels indicated an increased risk for patients with SC atrophy (respectively 0.66 and 0.68). In our cohort, MRI parameters seem to be more predictive than clinical variables, which had a hazard ratio very close to 1.


It is suggested that multimodal SC MRI could be a useful tool in survival prediction especially if used at the beginning of the disease and when combined with clinical variables. To validate it as a biomarker, confirmation of the results in bigger independent cohorts of patients is warranted.


amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; biomarkers; motor neuron degeneration; spinal cord MRI; spinal cord atrophy; survival prediction

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