Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. MS lesions show a typical distribution pattern and primarily affect the white matter (WM) in the periventricular zone and in the centrum semiovale.
Objective: To track lesion development during disease progression, we compared the spatiotemporal distribution patterns of lesions in relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) and secondary progressive MS (SPMS).
Methods: We used T1 and T2 weighted MR images of 209 RRMS and 62 SPMS patients acquired on two different 1.5 Tesla MR scanners in two clinical centers followed up for 25 (± 1.7) months. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal differences in lesion distribution between RRMS and SPMS patients were analyzed with lesion probability maps (LPMs) and permutation-based inference.
Results: MS lesions clustered around the lateral ventricles and in the centrum semiovale. Cross-sectionally, compared to RRMS patients, the SPMS patients showed a significantly higher regional probability of T1 hypointense lesions (p ≤ 0.03) in the callosal body, the corticospinal tract, and other tracts adjacent to the lateral ventricles, but not of T2 lesions (peak probabilities were RRMS: T1 9%, T2 18%; SPMS: T1 21%, T2 27%). No longitudinal changes of regional T1 and T2 lesion volumes between baseline and follow-up scan were found.
Conclusion: The results suggest a particular vulnerability to neurodegeneration during disease progression in a number of WM tracts.