Ultra-high field spinal cord MRI in multiple sclerosis: Where are we standing? A literature review

Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2022 Jan:57:103436. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2021.103436. Epub 2021 Nov 29.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a cornerstone in multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnostics and monitoring. Ultra-high field (UHF) MRI is being increasingly used and becoming more accessible. Due to the small diameter and mobility of the spinal cord, imaging this structure at ultra-high fields poses additional challenges compared to brain imaging. Here we review the potential benefits for the MS field by providing a literature overview of the use UHF spinal cord MRI in MS research and we elaborate on the challenges that are faced. Benefits include increased signal- and contrast-to-noise, enabling for higher spatial resolutions, which can improve MS lesion sensitivity in both the spinal white matter as well as grey matter. Additionally, these benefits can aid imaging of microstructural abnormalities in the spinal cord in MS using advanced MRI techniques like functional imaging, MR spectroscopy and diffusion-based techniques. Technical challenges include increased magnetic field inhomogeneities, distortions from physiological motion and optimalisation of sequences. Approaches including parallel imaging techniques, real time shimming and retrospective compensation of physiological motion are making it increasingly possible to unravel the potential of spinal cord UHF MRI in the context of MS research.

Keywords: magnetic resonance imaging; multiple sclerosis; spinal cord; ultra-high field.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / diagnostic imaging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord / diagnostic imaging