Multiple sclerosis: validation of MR imaging for quantification and detection of iron

Radiology. 2013 May;267(2):531-42. doi: 10.1148/radiol.12120863. Epub 2013 Jan 7.


Purpose: To investigate the relationship between iron staining and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging measurements in postmortem subjects with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Materials and methods: Institutional ethical approval was obtained, and informed consent was obtained from the subjects and/or their families. Four MR imaging methods based on transverse relaxation (T2 weighting, R2 mapping, and R2* mapping) and phase imaging were performed by using a 4.7-T system in three in situ postmortem patients with MS less than 28 hours after death and in one in vivo patient 1 year before death. Iron staining with the Perls iron reaction was performed after brain extraction. Region-of-interest measurements from six subcortical gray matter structures were obtained from MR imaging and then correlated with corresponding locations on photographs of iron-stained pathologic slices by using a separate linear least-squares regression in each subject. Iron status of white matter lesions, as determined by staining, was compared with appearance on MR images.

Results: R2* mapping had the highest intrasubject correlations with iron in subcortical gray matter (R(2) = 0.857, 0.628, and 0.685; all P < .001), while R2 mapping (R(2) = 0.807, 0.615, 0.628, and 0.489; P < .001 and P = .001, .034, and .001, respectively), phase imaging (R(2) = 0.672, 0.441, 0.596, 0.548; all P ≤ .001), and T2-weighted imaging (R(2) = 0.463, 0.582, 0.650, and 0.551; all P < .001) had lower but still strong correlations. Within lesions, hypointense areas on phase images did not always represent iron. A hyperintense rim surrounding lesions on R2* maps was only present with iron staining, yet not all iron-staining lesions had R2* rim hyperintensity.

Conclusion: All four MR imaging methods had significant linear correlations with iron and could potentially be used to determine iron status of subcortical gray matter structures in MS, with R2* mapping being preferred. A reliable method of determining iron status within MS lesions was not established.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cadaver
  • Cause of Death
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / metabolism*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology


  • Iron