Dilated Virchow-Robin spaces and multiple sclerosis: 3 T magnetic resonance study

Radiol Med. 2014 Jun;119(6):408-14. doi: 10.1007/s11547-013-0357-9. Epub 2013 Dec 3.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to assess differences in the presence, size, number and site of dilated cerebral Virchow-Robin spaces (VRSd) between patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the inactive phase and healthy controls, and between MS patients with disabling (MSd) or nondisabling (MSnd) disease.

Materials and methods: The study was performed by retrospectively analysing the 3 T magnetic resonance studies of 40 MS patients and 30 healthy subjects (matched for age, education and gender). The data were analysed with MIPAV (Medical Image Processing, Analysis and Visualisation) software to assess for VRSd and with FSL SIENA-X to measure global cerebral atrophy (GCA) expressed as brain parenchyma fraction.

Results: The MS patients had significantly higher VRSd number (p < 0.011), area (p < 0.0073) and volume (p < 0.0071) than controls, with a marked increase for atypical sites (p < 0.0069) without significant intragroup differences between the disease forms (MSd vs MSnd). The number and size of VRSd did not correlate with GCA.

Conclusions: Our results confirm previous reports regarding the increase in VRSd in nonactive phases of MS and support the immunological role of the VRS within the central nervous system. The lack of correlation between VRSd and the degree of GCA and their prevailing localisation in atypical sites in MS patients make VRSd a potential marker of inflammatory-demyelinating disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dilatation, Pathologic / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Subarachnoid Space / pathology