Since its technical development in the early 1980s, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has quickly been adopted as an essential tool in supporting the diagnosis, longitudinal monitoring, evaluation of therapeutic response, and scientific investigations in multiple sclerosis (MS). The clinical usage of MRI has increased in parallel with technical innovations in the technique itself; the widespread adoption of clinically routine MRI at 1.5T has allowed sensitive qualitative and quantitative assessments of macroscopic central nervous system (CNS) inflammatory demyelinating lesions and tissue atrophy. However, conventional MRI lesion measures lack specificity for the underlying MS pathology and only weakly correlate with clinical status. Higher field strength units and newer, advanced MRI techniques offer increased sensitivity and specificity in the detection of disease activity and disease severity. This review summarizes the current status and future prospects regarding the role of MRI in the characterization of MS-related brain and spinal cord involvement.
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