Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: metabolic abnormality in nonenhancing lesions and normal-appearing white matter at MR imaging: initial experience

Radiology. 2005 Jan;234(1):211-7. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2341031895. Epub 2004 Nov 4.


Purpose: To quantify, with three-dimensional proton magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy, metabolic characteristics of normal-appearing white matter and nonenhancing lesions in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS).

Materials and methods: Institutional review board approval and informed patient consent were obtained. Nine patients with relapsing-remitting MS (six women, three men) and nine age-matched control subjects (seven women, two men) were studied with T1- and T2-weighted MR imaging and three-dimensional proton MR spectroscopy at spatial resolution less than a cubic centimeter. Absolute N-acetylaspartate (NAA), creatine (Cr), and choline (Cho) levels were obtained from 171 voxels: 66 from lesions on T2-weighted MR images (43 hypointense and 23 isointense on T1-weighted MR images), 31 from normal-appearing white matter, and 74 from analogous normal white matter regions on images in control subjects.

Results: Mean NAA level in hypointense lesions (5.30 mmol/L +/- 2.27 [standard deviation]) was significantly lower (P < or = .05) than that in isointense lesions (7.82 mmol/L +/- 2.28), normal-appearing white matter (7.37 mmol/L +/- 1.71), and normal white matter in control subjects (8.89 mmol/L +/- 1.54). Cho (1.79 mmol/L +/- 0.65) and Cr (5.64 mmol/L +/- 1.50) levels in isointense lesions were indistinguishable from those in normal-appearing white matter (1.74 mmol/L +/- 0.46 and 4.99 mmol/L +/- 0.97, respectively) but were significantly higher (Cho, 20%; Cr, 24%) than those in normal white matter in control subjects (1.44 mmol/L +/- 0.40 and 4.30 mmol/L +/- 1.32, respectively). NAA, Cho, and Cr levels in normal-appearing white matter were significantly different than those in normal white matter in control subjects (NAA, 20% lower; Cho, 14% higher; and Cr, 17% higher).

Conclusion: Abnormal metabolic activity persists in all MS tissue types. Increased Cr and Cho levels suggest (a) ongoing gliosis and attempted remyelination in isointense lesions on T1-weighted MR images and (b) membrane turnover (de- and remyelination), in addition to increased cellularity (gliosis, inflammation) in normal-appearing white matter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Choline / metabolism
  • Creatine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / metabolism*


  • Aspartic Acid
  • N-acetylaspartate
  • Creatine
  • Choline