Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory-demyelinating and neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system (CNS) and the most frequent cause of non-traumatic disability in young and middle-age adults. Although conventional MRI (including T2-weighted, pre- and post-contrast T1-weighted scans) has had a huge impact on MS by enabling an earlier diagnosis, and by providing surrogate markers for monitoring treatment response, it is limited by the low pathological specificity and the low sensitivity to diffuse damage in normal-appearing white matter and gray matter. Diffusion weighted MRI is a quantitative technique able to overcome these limitations by providing markers more specific to the underlying pathologic substrates and more sensitive to the full extent of 'occult' brain tissue damage. This review describes diffusion studies in MS, discusses their pathophysiological implications and emphasizes their clinical relevance.
Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.