Muscle MRI in immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy (IMNM): implications for clinical management and treatment strategies

J Neurol. 2023 Feb;270(2):960-974. doi: 10.1007/s00415-022-11447-7. Epub 2022 Nov 3.


Objectives: Immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy (IMNM) is the most severe idiopathic inflammatory myopathy (IIM) and early aggressive poly-immunotherapy is often required to reduce long-term disability. The aim of this study is to investigate muscle MRI in IMNM as outcome measure for disease activity, severity, progression, response to treatment, and to better characterize the pattern of muscle involvement.

Methods: This is a retrospective, observational, cross-sectional, and longitudinal study including 22 IMNM patients, divided into three groups based on timing of first MRI and if performed before or under treatment. T1 score and percentage of STIR positive muscles (STIR%) were considered and analyzed also in relation to demographic, clinical and laboratory characteristics.

Results: STIR% was higher in untreated patients and in those who performed MRI earlier (p = 0.001). Pelvic girdle and thighs were in general more affected than legs. T1 score was higher in patients with MRI performed later in disease course (p = 0.004) with a prevalent involvement of the lumbar paraspinal muscles, gluteus medius and minimus, adductor magnus and hamstrings. 22% of STIR positive muscles showed fat replacement progression at second MRI. Higher STIR% at baseline correlated with higher risk of fat replacement at follow-up (p = 0.003); higher T1 score correlated with clinical disability at follow-up, with late treatment start and delayed treatment with IVIG (p = 0.03).

Interpretation: Muscle MRI is a sensitive biomarker for monitoring disease activity and therapy response, especially when performed early in disease course and before treatment start, and could represent a supportive outcome measure and early prognostic index in IMNM.

Keywords: Follow-up study; Immune mediated necrotizing myopathy (IMNM); Immunomodulating therapy; Inflammatory myopathies; Whole body muscle MRI.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging
  • Myositis* / diagnostic imaging
  • Myositis* / drug therapy