Evaluation of Leptomeningeal Contrast Enhancement Using Pre-and Postcontrast Subtraction 3D-FLAIR Imaging in Multiple Sclerosis

AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2018 Apr;39(4):642-647. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A5541. Epub 2018 Feb 8.


Background and purpose: Leptomeningeal contrast enhancement is found in patients with multiple sclerosis, though reported rates have varied. The use of 3D-fluid-attenuated inversion recovery pre- and postcontrast subtraction imaging may more accurately determine the frequency of leptomeningeal contrast enhancement. The purpose of this study was to investigate the frequency of leptomeningeal contrast enhancement using the pre- and postcontrast subtraction approach and to evaluate 3 different methods of assessing the presence of leptomeningeal contrast enhancement.

Materials and methods: We enrolled 258 consecutive patients with MS (212 with relapsing-remitting MS, 32 with secondary-progressive MS, and 14 with clinically isolated syndrome) who underwent both pre- and 10-minute postcontrast 3D-FLAIR sequences after a single dose of gadolinium injection on 3T MR imaging. The analysis included leptomeningeal contrast-enhancement evaluation on 3D-FLAIR postcontrast images in native space (method A), on pre- and postcontrast 3D-FLAIR images in native space (method B), and on pre-/postcontrast 3D-FLAIR coregistered and subtracted images (method C, used as the criterion standard).

Results: In total, 51 (19.7%) patients with MS showed the presence of leptomeningeal contrast enhancement using method A; 39 (15.1%), using method B; and 39 (15.1%), using method C (P = .002). Compared with method C as the criterion standard, method A showed 89.8% sensitivity and 92.7% specificity, while method B showed 84.6% sensitivity and 97.3% specificity (P < .001) at the patient level. Reproducibility was the highest using method C (κ agreement, r = 088, P < .001). The mean time to analyze the 3D-FLAIR images was significantly lower with method C compared with methods A and B (P < .001).

Conclusions: 3D-FLAIR postcontrast imaging offers a sensitive method for detecting leptomeningeal contrast enhancement in patients with MS. However, the use of subtraction imaging helped avoid false-positive cases, decreased reading time, and increased the accuracy of leptomeningeal contrast-enhancement foci detection in a clinical routine.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Contrast Media
  • Female
  • Gadolinium
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Meninges / diagnostic imaging*
  • Meninges / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Contrast Media
  • Gadolinium