Contrast enhancement and quantitative signal analysis in MR imaging of multiple myeloma: assessment of focal and diffuse growth patterns in marrow correlated with biopsies and survival rates

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1996 Oct;167(4):1029-36. doi: 10.2214/ajr.167.4.8819407.


Objective: This study describes infiltration patterns of multiple myeloma in spinal MR imaging and correlates the findings with biopsies, survival rates, and signal intensity measurements in unenhanced and enhanced studies.

Materials and methods: Fifty-three patients with multiple myeloma and 53 age-matched controls underwent MR imaging of the spine. Twenty-nine patients underwent sagittal T1-weighted spin-echo enhanced imaging and all patients underwent sagittal T1-weighted spin-echo unenhanced and opposed-phase gradient-recalled echo images, and signal intensity measurements were taken. MR imaging was correlated to marrow specimens (n = 40) and a clinical staging system. The probability of survival was also calculated. Finally, we performed qualitative visual evaluation (infiltration pattern, degree of tumor involvement) and a quantitative evaluation (marrow signal intensity ratios, contrast enhancement).

Results: Five infiltration patterns were found: normal-appearing marrow with low-grade interstitial infiltration (n = 5), focal (n = 18), diffuse (n = 12), focal and diffuse (n = 13), and salt-and-pepper (n = 5). Infiltration pattern correlated with clinical staging; all patients with normal-appearing and salt-and-pepper patterns were clinically stage I. Diffuse marrow infiltration was assessed by marrow ratios: low-grade infiltration, greater than 2.0; intermediate, 1.0-2.0; highgrade, less than 1.0. Contrast enhancement with a signal intensity increase greater than 40% indicated diffuse infiltration. In the control group, all of whom had no marrow disease, enhancement varied (mean +/- SD, 16% +/- 8.9%) but did not exceed 40%. Marrow involvement on MR images correlated significantly with clinical staging and survival (p < or = .001).

Conclusion: MR imaging with opposed gradient-recalled echo sequences and contrast enhancement provided data that allowed us to classify infiltration patterns and to quantify diffuse marrow involvement in multiple myeloma, both of which correlated to clinical staging and biopsy. Also, the MR data was of prognostic value. Therefore, like laboratory parameters, biopsies, and radiographs, MR imaging can be a supporting pillar in staging and planning treatment of patients with multiple myeloma.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy, Needle*
  • Bone Marrow / pathology*
  • Contrast Media*
  • Female
  • Gadolinium DTPA
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Myeloma / diagnosis*
  • Multiple Myeloma / mortality
  • Multiple Myeloma / pathology
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Pentetic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Spine / pathology*
  • Survival Rate


  • Contrast Media
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Pentetic Acid
  • Gadolinium DTPA