The increasing role of muscle MRI to monitor changes over time in untreated and treated muscle diseases

Curr Opin Neurol. 2020 Oct;33(5):611-620. doi: 10.1097/WCO.0000000000000851.


Purpose of review: This review aims to discuss the recent results of studies published applying quantitative MRI sequences to large cohorts of patients with neuromuscular diseases.

Recent findings: Quantitative MRI sequences are now available to identify and quantify changes in muscle water and fat content. These two components have been associated with acute and chronic injuries, respectively. Studies show that the increase in muscle water is not only reversible if therapies are applied successfully but can also predict fat replacement in neurodegenerative diseases. Muscle fat fraction correlates with muscle function tests and increases gradually over time in parallel with the functional decline of patients with neuromuscular diseases. There are new spectrometry-based sequences to quantify other components, such as glycogen, electrolytes or the pH of the muscle fibre, extending the applicability of MRI to the study of several processes in neuromuscular diseases.

Summary: The latest results obtained from the study of long cohorts of patients with various neuromuscular diseases open the door to the use of this technology in clinical trials, which would make it possible to obtain a new measure for assessing the effectiveness of new treatments. The challenge is currently the popularization of these studies and their application to the monitoring of patients in the daily clinic.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Muscular Diseases / diagnostic imaging*