Background: Several magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) parameters are known to be associated with short-term outcome in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. MS-related disability typically progresses over decades, stressing the need for longer follow-up studies. Until now, these studies are relatively sparse and, therefore, the predictive value of MRI parameters for clinical disability remains largely unknown.
Objective: To assess the predictive value of brain MRI parameters, which are obtained during the first 3.3 years of the study for overall disease severity as measured by the MS Severity Score (MSSS) after 12.2 years follow-up.
Methods: Forty-six MS patients were included in the study. MRI parameters included both lesion loads and atrophy measures. Average and change parameters were calculated for MRI parameters and subsequently used as independent variables in regression models, while MSSS was the dependent variable.
Results: Follow-up (FU) was obtained in 43/46 patients (94%) and median expanded disability status scale (EDSS) score increased significantly from 2.5 to 4.0. At last FU median MSSS was 4.3 (range 2.2-6.9). In univariate analyses, both change and cross-sectional T1-hypointense lesion load and ventricular atrophy measures were associated with MSSS. A multiple regression model included the change parameter of hypointense T1-lesion load (BHLL). This model explained 20% of variance in MSSS, which increased to 34% when type of disease (relapsing remitting or secondary progressive), age, and sex were entered additionally.
Conclusion: MRI measures of axonal loss are associated with higher overall disease severity in MS patients.