Background: The majority of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) present with spinal cord pathology. Spinal cord atrophy is thought to be a marker of disease severity, but in long-disease duration its relation to brain pathology and clinical disability is largely unknown.
Objective: Our aim was to investigate mean upper cervical cord area (MUCCA) in patients with long-standing MS and assess its relation to brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures and clinical disability.
Methods: MUCCA was measured in 196 MS patients and 55 healthy controls using 3DT1-weighted cervical images obtained at 3T MRI. Clinical disability was measured using the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS), Nine-Hole-Peg test (9-HPT), and 25 feet Timed Walk Test (TWT). Stepwise linear regression was performed to assess the association between MUCCA and MRI measures, and between MUCCA and clinical disability.
Results: MUCCA was smaller (mean 11.7%) in MS patients compared with healthy controls (72.56±9.82 and 82.24±7.80 mm2 respectively; p<0.001), most prominently in male patients. MUCCA was associated with normalized brain volume, and number of cervical cord lesions. MUCCA was independently associated with EDSS, TWT, and 9-HPT.
Conclusion: MUCCA was reduced in MS patients compared with healthy controls. It provides a relevant marker for clinical disability in long-standing disease, independent of other MRI measures.
Keywords: Multiple sclerosis; atrophy; disability evaluation; magnetic resonance imaging; spinal cord.
© The Author(s), 2014.