Background: Individual magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) disease severity measures, such as atrophy or lesions, show weak relationships to clinical status in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Objective: To combine MS-MRI measures of disease severity into a composite score.
Design: Retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data.
Setting: Community-based and referral subspecialty clinic in an academic hospital.
Patients: A total of 103 patients with MS, with a mean (SD) Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score of 3.3 (2.2), of whom 62 (60.2%) had the relapsing-remitting, 33 (32.0%) the secondary progressive, and 8 (7.8%) the primary progressive form.
Main outcome measures: Brain MRI measures included baseline T2 hyperintense (T2LV) and T1 hypointense (T1LV) lesion volume and brain parenchymal fraction (BPF), a marker of global atrophy. The ratio of T1LV to T2LV (T1:T2) assessed lesion severity. A Magnetic Resonance Disease Severity Scale (MRDSS) score, on a continuous scale from 0 to 10, was derived for each patient using T2LV, BPF, and T1:T2.
Results: The MRDSS score averaged 5.1 (SD, 2.6). Baseline MRI and EDSS correlations were moderate for BPF, T1:T2, and MRDSS and weak for T2LV. The MRDSS showed a larger effect size than the individual MRI components in distinguishing patients with the relapsing-remitting form from those with the secondary progressive form. Models containing either T2LV or MRDSS were significantly associated with disability progression during the mean (SD) 3.2 (0.3)-year observation period, when adjusting for baseline EDSS score.
Conclusion: Combining brain MRI lesion and atrophy measures can predict MS clinical progression and provides the basis for developing an MRI-based continuous scale as a marker of MS disease severity.