Value of the central vein sign at 3T to differentiate MS from seropositive NMOSD

Neurology. 2018 Apr 3;90(14):e1183-e1190. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005256. Epub 2018 Mar 7.


Objective: To assess the value of the central vein sign (CVS) on a clinical 3T scanner to distinguish between multiple sclerosis (MS) and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).

Methods: Eighteen aquaporin-4-antibody-positive patients with NMOSD, 18 patients with relapsing-remitting MS, and 25 healthy controls underwent 3T MRI. The presence of a central vein in white matter lesions on susceptibility-weighted imaging, defined as a thin hypointense line or a small dot, was recorded.

Results: The proportion of lesions with the CVS was higher in MS than NMOSD (80% vs 32%, p < 0.001). A greater proportion of lesions with the CVS predicted the diagnosis of MS, rather than NMOSD (odds ratio 1.10, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.04 to 1.16, p = 0.001), suggesting that each percent unit increase in the proportion of lesions with the CVS in an individual patient was associated with a 10% increase in the risk of the same patient having MS. If more than 54% of the lesions on any given scan show the CVS, then the patient can be given a diagnosis of MS with an accuracy of 94% (95% CIs 81.34, 99.32, p < 0.001, sensitivity/specificity 90%/100%).

Conclusion: The clinical value of the CVS in the context of the differential diagnosis between MS and NMOSD, previously suggested using 7T scanners, is now extended to clinical 3T scanners, thereby making a step towards the use of CVS in clinical practice.

Classification of evidence: This study provides Class III evidence that the CVS on 3T MRI accurately distinguishes patients with MS from those with seropositive NMOSD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aquaporin 4 / immunology
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neuromyelitis Optica / blood
  • Neuromyelitis Optica / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neuromyelitis Optica / immunology
  • Prospective Studies
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging


  • AQP4 protein, human
  • Aquaporin 4
  • Autoantibodies