Purpose The aim of this study was to determine the occurrence and distribution of the 'central vein' sign in white matter lesions on susceptibility-weighted magnetic resonance images in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD). Materials and methods T2-weighted and fluid-attenuated inversion recovery magnetic resonance images of 19 MS patients and 19 patients affected by CSVD were analysed for the presence and localisation of focal hyperintense white matter lesions. Lesions were subdivided into periventricular or non-periventricular (juxtacortical, subcortical, deep white matter and cerebellar) distributed. The number and localisation of lesions presenting with the central vein sign were recorded and compared between MS and CSVD lesions. Results A total of 313 MS patients and 75 CSVD lesions were identified on T2-weighted and fluid-attenuated inversion recovery magnetic resonance images. The central vein sign was found in 128 MS lesions (40.9%), and the majority of them (71/128, 55.5%) had a periventricular distribution. The central vein sign was found in 22 out of 75 (29.3%) CSVD lesions, and periventricular distribution was seen in six out of 22 (27.2%) CSVD lesions. The difference in the proportion of white matter hyperintense lesions that presented with the central vein sign on susceptibility-weighted images in patients with MS and CSVD was statistically different, and a significantly higher number of MS patients presented with lesions with the central vein sign compared to CSVD patients. Conclusion The presence of the central vein sign on susceptibility-weighted images for MS lesions improves the understanding of the periventricular distribution of MS lesions and could contribute as adjunctive diagnostic criteria for MS disease.
Keywords: Central vein sign; cerebral small vessel disease; magnetic resonance imaging; multiple sclerosis; susceptibility-weighted imaging.