Objective: To determine the impact of pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis (MS) on age-expected brain growth.
Methods: Whole brain and regional volumes of 36 patients with relapsing-remitting MS onset prior to 18 years of age were segmented in 185 longitudinal MRI scans (2-11 scans per participant, 3-month to 2-year scan intervals). MRI scans of 25 age- and sex-matched healthy normal controls (NC) were also acquired at baseline and 2 years later on the same scanner as the MS group. A total of 874 scans from 339 participants from the NIH-funded MRI study of normal brain development acquired at 2-year intervals were used as an age-expected healthy growth reference. All data were analyzed with an automatic image processing pipeline to estimate the volume of brain and brain substructures. Mixed-effect models were built using age, sex, and group as fixed effects.
Results: Significant group and age interactions were found with the adjusted models fitting brain volumes and normalized thalamus volumes (p < 10(-4)). These findings indicate a failure of age-normative brain growth for the MS group, and an even greater failure of thalamic growth. In patients with MS, T2 lesion volume correlated with a greater reduction in age-expected thalamic volume. To exclude any scanner-related influence on our data, we confirmed no significant interaction of group in the adjusted models between the NC and NIH MRI Study of Normal Brain Development groups.
Conclusions: Our results provide evidence that the onset of MS during childhood and adolescence limits age-expected primary brain growth and leads to subsequent brain atrophy, implicating an early onset of the neurodegenerative aspect of MS.
© 2014 American Academy of Neurology.