Radiologically isolated syndromes: to treat or not to treat?

J Neurol. 2024 May;271(5):2370-2378. doi: 10.1007/s00415-024-12294-4. Epub 2024 Mar 19.


The widespread use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has led to increased detection of individuals exhibiting asymptomatic brain and spinal cord lesions suggestive of multiple sclerosis (MS), defined as "radiologically isolated syndrome" (RIS). Specific criteria have been proposed and updated over time to identify individuals with RIS. Moreover, a younger age, the presence of infratentorial, spinal cord or gadolinium-enhancing lesions, as well as of cerebrospinal fluid-specific oligoclonal bands have been recognized as relevant risk factors for the occurrence of a first clinical event. Recent randomized controlled trials conducted in individuals with RIS have shown that dimethyl fumarate and teriflunomide significantly reduce the occurrence of clinical events in this population. These findings support the notion that early treatment initiation may positively influence the prognosis of these patients. However, several aspects should be taken into account before treating individuals with RIS in the real-world clinical setting, including an accurate identification of individuals with RIS to avoid misdiagnosis, a precise stratification of their risk of experiencing a first clinical event and further data supporting favorable balance between benefits and risks, even in the long term. This commentary provides an overview of the latest updates in RIS diagnosis, prognosis, and emerging treatment evidence.

Keywords: Disease-modifying drugs; Multiple sclerosis; Radiologically isolated syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Demyelinating Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Demyelinating Diseases / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / diagnosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / diagnostic imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / drug therapy