Background: Virchow-Robin spaces (VRS) are associated with vascular and neurodegenerative disease. In multiple sclerosis (MS), VRS have been associated with neuroinflammation. Ultra-high field imaging may be used to gain insight in these contradictory findings.
Objective: The objective of this paper is to analyze VRS in MS patients using high-resolution 7 Tesla (T) MRI. Additionally, we investigated whether the widening of VRS is related to inflammatory or neurodegenerative aspects of MS.
Methods: Thirty-four MS patients and 11 healthy controls were examined at 7T. Number and size of VRS were measured on three-dimensional (3D) T1-weighted images, and 3D fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) images were used for MS lesion detection. Brain atrophy was quantified by computing supratentorial brain volume fraction (sBVF). VRS counts were correlated with clinical variables, lesion count and sBVF.
Results: MS patients displayed more VRS (median 11) than healthy controls (median four), p = 0.001. VRS size did not differ between both groups. VRS count in MS patients was associated with sBVF (rho = -0.40, p = 0.02), but not with lesion count (p = 0.22).
Conclusions: The 7T MRI reveals increased numbers of VRS in MS. The finding that VRS are associated with supratentorial brain atrophy, but not with lesion count, suggests that VRS might rather serve as a neurodegenerative than an inflammatory marker in MS.
Keywords: MRI; Multiple sclerosis; Virchow-Robin spaces; neurodegeneration; ultra-high-field MRI.
© The Author(s), 2014.