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New MRI Technique Offers Faster MS Diagnosis

February 2, 2016

Researchers at the University of Nottingham have successfully tested a new way of using MRI scanners to search for evidence of multiple sclerosis. Specifically they have found a way to distinguish between MS lesions and other “white spots” found in MS.

 They have used a clinical MRI scanner, the same type all neuroscience centers own and use daily to carry out a special type of scan called a T2-weighted imaging process which is able to reveal lesions in the brain's white matter that are centered on a vein. This is a known indicator of MS.

Dr Nikos Evangelou, the study’s leader said: "We already knew that large research MRI scanners could detect the proportion of lesions with a vein in the brain's white matter, but these scanners are not clinically available. So we wanted to find out whether a single brain scan in an NHS hospital scanner could also be effective in distinguishing between patients known to have MS and patients known to have non-MS brain lesions. We are excited to reveal that our results show that clinical application of this technique could supplement existing diagnostic methods for MS."

A total of 40 patients were recruited from the neurology outpatients' department of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. Within the test cohort, all patients with MS had central veins in more than 45 per cent of brain lesions, while the rest had central veins visible in less than 45 per cent of lesions. Then, by applying the same diagnostic rules to the second cohort, all the remaining patients were correctly categorized into MS or non-MS, by the blinded observer, taking less than two minutes per scan.

Among patients referred to MS treatment centers with suspected MS, fewer than 50 per cent are found to have it. This shows that diagnosing MS in a significant minority of cases can be challenging.