Brain Iron at Quantitative MRI Is Associated with Disability in Multiple Sclerosis

Radiology. 2018 Nov;289(2):487-496. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2018180136. Epub 2018 Jul 17.


Purpose To study deep gray matter susceptibility in multiple sclerosis (MS) by using quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) and to assess the relationship between susceptibility and clinical disability. Materials and Methods For this prospective study between March 2009 and November 2013, 600 participants with MS (452 with relapsing-remitting MS and 148 with secondary progressive MS) and 250 age- and sex-matched healthy control participants were imaged with 3.0-T MRI to measure magnetic susceptibility. Deep gray matter susceptibility (in parts per billion) was analyzed by using region of interest and voxelwise methods. QSM and MRI volumetric differences between study groups and associations with clinical outcomes were assessed. Analysis of covariance, multivariable linear regression, and voxelwise analyses, controlling for age and sex, were used to compare study groups and to explore associations between MRI and clinical outcomes. Results Compared with control participants, participants with MS presented with lower thalamic susceptibility (-7.5 ppb vs -1.1 ppb; P < .001) and higher susceptibility of basal ganglia (62 ppb vs 54.8 ppb; P < .001). Lower thalamic susceptibility was associated with longer disease duration (β = -0.42; P = .002), higher degree of disability (β = -0.64; P = .03), and secondary-progressive course (β = -4.3; P = .009). Higher susceptibility of the globus pallidus was associated with higher disability (β = 2; P = .03). After correcting for each individual structural volume in voxelwise analysis, lower thalamic susceptibility and higher susceptibility of the globus pallidus remained associated with clinical disability (P < .05). Conclusion Quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) suggests that altered deep gray matter iron is associated with the evolution of multiple sclerosis (MS) and on disability accrual, independent of tissue atrophy. © RSNA, 2018 Online supplemental material is available for this article.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / metabolism*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Iron