Correlation of sexual dysfunction and brain magnetic resonance imaging in multiple sclerosis

Mult Scler. 2003 Feb;9(1):108-10. doi: 10.1191/1352458503ms881sr.


Sixty-two patients (40 women and 22 men) with multiple sclerosis (MS) were examined with 1.5 tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. Information on sexual and sphincteric disturbances has been collected, and data on disability, independence, cognitive performances and psychological functioning have been assessed. Calculations of T1- and T2-lesion load (LL) of total brain, frontal lobes and pons have been performed using a reproducible semiautomated technique. Whole brain, frontal and pontine atrophies were estimated using a normalized measure, the brain parenchymal fraction (BPF), obtained with a computerized interactive program. When comparing patients with and without sexual dysfunction (SD), there were no differences in total brain, frontal and pontine T1- and T2-LL, as well as in measures of whole brain and frontal atrophy. The only significant difference was in the pontine BPF (P = 0.026). In linear multiple regression analysis, SD was associated with depression (R = 0.56, P < 0.001) and, after adjusting for depression and anxiety, with bladder dysfunction (R = 0.43, P = 0.003) and pontine BPF (R = 0.56, P < 0.001). No association between SD and any of the measures of T1- and T2-LL was found. The findings showed a relationship between SD and pontine atrophy, confirmed the correlation of SD with bladder dysfunction and highlighted the role of psychological factors in determining SD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atrophy
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / complications
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / pathology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / complications
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / pathology*
  • Pons / pathology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / pathology*
  • Urination Disorders / etiology
  • Urination Disorders / pathology