Objectives: The objective was to correlate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) T2-weighted lesion load and measures of white matter atrophy in the brain to disability in a population-based sample of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Material and methods: A well defined cohort of patients was drawn at random from the general MS population by using the Danish Multiple Sclerosis Registry. A semi-automated local thresholding technique was used to quantify T2-weighted lesions on MRI; whereas manual tracing was applied to measure the corpus callosum brain ratio (CCR) and the ventricle brain ratio (VBR).
Results: A sample of 86 patients with a mean age of 43.3 years (SD 4.3), mean disease duration of 13.6 years (SD 4.4) and a median Expanded Disability Status Score (EDSS) of 6.0 was identified. The correlation between total lesion area of the brain (TLA) and disability (EDSS) for the whole sample was moderate (Spearman rank correlation coefficient r=0.48, P<0.001). Also correlations of CCR and VBR to disability (r=0.32-0.46) were significant.
Conclusions: Correlations of TLA and disability in this study were rather strong. Hence, T2-weighted MRI lesion load in the brain still plays an important role as a surrogate marker of disease and as a secondary outcome measure in phase III treatment trials.