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If My MRI Is Stable, Why Is My Walking Getting Worse?

July 4, 2017

A Harvard Med School study released a question: Is there always a link between the level of physical disability in some MS patients and the amount of lesions in the brain? MS patient, Ed Tobias, had a similar question for his neurologist. He asked: “Why do you order regular MRIs of my brain, but not of my spine?” Tobias provides two answers from his doctor and from the Harvard study.

What My Doctor Said

Tobias’s neurologist answered his question: disease progression in parts of the body that are controlled by nerves along the spinal cord, such as the legs, is usually noticed by a patient physically before the progression can be seen on a spinal MRI. However, a MS disease progression can be spotted on an MRI of the brain before it’s noticed physically. Ultimately, by doing brain scans, a neurologist may be able to halt that progression by changing DMDs.

The Harvard Med School Study

The overall conclusion of this study is that for some MS patients, there may be no connection between the number and size of the lesions that can be seen on an MRI of the brain and that patient’s level of physical disability. The research found that a little over 13 percent of the patients who were studied had this “dissociation” between what the scan revealed and their disability level. Some had only a few brain lesions but lots of disability. Others had a lot of brain lesions but relatively little physical disability.