Background: Outcome measures for clinical trials in neuromuscular diseases are typically based on physical assessments which are dependent on patient effort, combine the effort of different muscle groups, and may not be sensitive to progression over short trial periods in slow-progressing diseases. We hypothesised that quantitative fat imaging by MRI (Dixon technique) could provide more discriminating quantitative, patient-independent measurements of the progress of muscle fat replacement within individual muscle groups.
Objective: To determine whether quantitative fat imaging could measure disease progression in a cohort of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 2I (LGMD2I) patients over a 12 month period.
Methods: 32 adult patients (17 male;15 female) from 4 European tertiary referral centres with the homozygous c.826C>A mutation in the fukutin-related protein gene (FKRP) completed baseline and follow up measurements 12 months later. Quantitative fat imaging was performed and muscle fat fraction change was compared with (i) muscle strength and function assessed using standardized physical tests and (ii) standard T1-weighted MRI graded on a 6 point scale.
Results: There was a significant increase in muscle fat fraction in 9 of the 14 muscles analyzed using the quantitative MRI technique from baseline to 12 months follow up. Changes were not seen in the conventional longitudinal physical assessments or in qualitative scoring of the T₁w images.
Conclusions: Quantitative muscle MRI, using the Dixon technique, could be used as an important longitudinal outcome measure to assess muscle pathology and monitor therapeutic efficacy in patients with LGMD2I.