Hypothalamic lesions in multiple sclerosis

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2001 Dec;60(12):1208-18. doi: 10.1093/jnen/60.12.1208.


Demyelinating lesions of fiber bundles in and adjacent to the hypothalamus (i.e. the fornix. anterior commissure, internal capsule, and optic system) may be the basis for autonomic and endocrine alterations in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. Therefore we investigated the presence and immunological activity of lesions in hypothalamic fiber bundles of 17 MS patients and 14 controls. In the MS group, 16 of 17 patients showed demyelinated lesions. The incidence of active lesions was high (60%) and outnumbered chronic inactive lesions in the internal capsule (p = 0.005). In 4 of 17 MS patients, axonal damage was observed and in 3 of 17 MS patients grey matter lesions were apparent. Duration of MS was inversely related to the active hypothalamic MS lesion score (r = -0.72, p = 0.001). Since comparison of hypothalamic lesions with MS lesions in other areas of the brain in the same patients (n = 7) showed a great similarity both as stage and appearance was concerned, this negative relation in all likelihood reflects the clinical consequences of high disease activity throughout the whole brain. In controls no demyelinating lesions were seen but in 11 control cases HLA expression was observed that was lower than that present in MS patients (p = 0.02). In the median eminence region that lacks a blood-brain barrier, all controls showed a strong HLA expression around the blood vessels. We conclude that systematic pathological investigation of the hypothalamus in MS patients reveals an unexpected high incidence of active lesions that may impact on hypothalamic functioning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Axons / pathology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / pathology*
  • Male
  • Median Eminence / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Statistics, Nonparametric