Purpose: To investigate and characterize the global distribution of magnetization transfer (MT) ratio values of normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) and test the hypothesis that the MT histogram for NAWM reflects disease progression.
Materials and methods: Conventional and MT magnetic resonance (MR) images were obtained in 23 patients and 25 healthy volunteers. Clinical tests for comparison with the MT histogram parameters included the Extended Disability Status Scale and the ambulation index. Lesion load calculated with T2-weighted MR images and whole-brain and white matter volumes were measured.
Results: The location of the MT histogram peak and the mean MT ratio for NAWM were significantly lower in patients with MS than in control subjects. In longitudinal studies, the histogram peak location and mean MT ratio shifted in the direction of normal values as the duration of disease increased. A mean of 26.5% of the volume of new lesions identified on the later studies were demonstrated to have originated in NAWM corresponding to "lost" pixels on the histogram.
Conclusion: MT histogram analysis of NAWM, including longitudinal analysis, may provide new prognostic information regarding lesion formation and increase understanding of the course of the disease.