Background and purpose: Measures for spinal cord atrophy have become increasingly important as imaging biomarkers in the assessment of neuroinflammatory diseases, especially in neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders. The most commonly used method, mean upper cervical cord area, is relatively easy to measure and can be performed on brain MRIs that capture cervical myelon. Measures of spinal cord volume (eg, cervical cord volume or total cord volume) require longer scanning and more complex analysis but are potentially better suited as spinal cord atrophy measures. This study investigated spinal cord atrophy measures in a cohort of healthy subjects and patients with aquaporin-4 antibody seropositive neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders and evaluated the discriminatory performance of mean upper cervical cord cross-sectional area compared with cervical cord volume and total cord volume.
Materials and methods: Mean upper cervical cord area, cervical cord volume, and total cord volume were measured using 3T MRIs from healthy subjects (n = 19) and patients with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (n = 30). Group comparison and receiver operating characteristic analyses between healthy controls and patients with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders were performed.
Results: Mean upper cervical cord area, cervical cord volume, and total cord volume measures showed similar and highly significant group differences between healthy control subjects and patients with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (P < .01 for all). All 3 measures showed similar receiver operating characteristic-area under the curve values (mean upper cervical cord area = 0.70, cervical cord volume = 0.75, total cord volume = 0.77) with no significant difference between them. No associations among mean upper cervical cord cross-sectional area, cervical cord volume, or total cord volume with disability measures were found.
Conclusions: All 3 measures showed similar discriminatory power between healthy control and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders groups. Mean upper cervical cord area is easier to obtain compared with cervical cord volume and total cord volume and can be regarded as an efficient representative measure of spinal cord atrophy in the neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders context.
© 2018 by American Journal of Neuroradiology.