Purpose: To determine whether the normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) regions surrounding and remote from multiple sclerosis (MS) plaques have abnormal diffusional anisotropy and to compare anisotropy maps with apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) maps for sensitivity in the detection of white matter (WM) abnormalities.
Materials and methods: Conventional and diffusion tensor magnetic resonance (MR) imaging examinations were performed in 26 patients with MS and in 26 age-matched control subjects. Fractional anisotropy (FA) and ADC maps were generated and coregistered with T2-weighted MR images. Uniform regions of interest were placed on plaques, periplaque white matter (PWM) regions, NAWM regions in the contralateral side of the brain, and WM regions in control subjects to obtain FA and ADC values, which were compared across the WM regions.
Results: The mean FA was 0.280 for plaques, 0.383 for PWM, 0.493 for NAWM, and 0.537 for control subject WM. The mean ADC was 1.025 x 10(-3) mm(2)/sec for plaques, 0.786 x 10(-3) mm(2)/sec for PWM, 0.739 x 10(-3) mm(2)/sec for NAWM, and 0.726 x 10(-3) mm(2)/sec for control subject WM. Significant differences in anisotropy and ADC values were observed among all WM regions (P <.001 for all comparisons, except ADC in NAWM vs control subject WM [P =.018]).
Conclusion: The anisotropy and ADC values were abnormal in all WM regions in the patients with MS and were worse in the periplaque regions than in the distant regions. Diffusion tensor MR imaging may be more accurate than T2-weighted MR imaging for assessment of disease burden.