Brain atrophy and lesion load in a large population of patients with multiple sclerosis

Neurology. 2005 Jul 26;65(2):280-5. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000168837.87351.1f.


Objective: To measure white matter (WM) and gray matter (GM) atrophy and lesion load in a large population of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) using a fully automated, operator-independent, multiparametric segmentation method.

Methods: The study population consisted of 597 patients with MS and 104 control subjects. The MRI parameters were abnormal WM fraction (AWM-f), global WM-f (gWM-f), and GM fraction (GM-f).

Results: Significant differences between patients with MS and control subjects included higher AWM-f and reduced gWM-f and GM-f. MRI data showed significant differences between patients with relapsing-remitting and secondary progressive forms of MS. Significant correlations between MRI parameters and between MRI and clinical data were found.

Conclusions: Patients with multiple sclerosis have significant atrophy of both white matter (WM) and gray matter (GM); secondary progressive patients have significantly more atrophy of both WM and GM than do relapsing-remitting patients and a significantly higher lesion load (abnormal WM fraction); lesion load is related to both WM and even more to GM atrophy; lesion load and WM and GM atrophy are significantly related to Expanded Disability Status Scale score and age at onset (suggesting that the younger the age at disease onset, the worse the lesion load and brain atrophy); and GM atrophy is the most significant MRI variable in determining the final disability.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Atrophy / complications
  • Atrophy / diagnosis*
  • Atrophy / physiopathology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-beta / therapeutic use
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnosis*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Sex Factors


  • Interferon-beta