Clinical 3-tesla FLAIR* MRI Improves Diagnostic Accuracy in Multiple Sclerosis

Mult Scler. 2016 Oct;22(12):1578-1586. doi: 10.1177/1352458515624975. Epub 2016 Jan 14.


Objective: To evaluate clinical fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR)* 3T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is sensitive to perivenular inflammatory demyelinating lesions, in diagnosing multiple sclerosis (MS).

Background: Central veins may be a distinguishing feature of MS lesions. FLAIR*, a combined contrast derived from clinical MRI scans, has not been studied as a clinical tool for diagnosing MS.

Methods: Two experienced MS neurologists evaluated 87 scan pairs (T2-FLAIR/FLAIR*), separately and side-by-side, from 68 MS cases, 8 healthy volunteers, and 11 individuals with other neurological diseases. Raters judged cases based on experience, published criteria, and a visual assessment of the "40% rule," whereby MS is favored if >40% of lesions demonstrate a central vein. Diagnostic accuracy was determined with area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC), and inter-rater reliability was assessed with Cohen's kappa (κ).

Results: Diagnostic accuracy was high: rater 1, AUC 0.94 (95% confidence interval: 0.89, 0.97) for T2-FLAIR, 0.95 (0.92, 0.98) for FLAIR*; rater 2, 0.94 (0.90, 0.98) and 0.90 (0.85, 0.95). AUC improved when images were considered together: rater 1, 0.99 (0.98, 1.00); rater 2, 0.98 (0.96, 0.99). Inter-rater agreement was substantial for T2-FLAIR (κ = 0.68) and FLAIR* (κ = 0.74), despite low agreement on the 40% rule (κ = 0.47) ([Formula: see text] in all cases).

Conclusions: Joint clinical evaluation of T2-FLAIR and FLAIR* images modestly improves diagnostic accuracy for MS and does not require counting lesions with central veins.

Keywords: MRI; central veins; diagnosis; multiple sclerosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebral Veins / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / standards
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnostic imaging*