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Multiple sclerosis: new MRI technique offers faster diagnosis

A new way of using MRI scanners to look for evidence of multiple sclerosis in the brain has been successfully tested by researchers at The University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Multiple sclerosis ( MS ) is a neurological condition which affects around 100,000 people in the UK. It is notoriously difficult to diagnose as it has many symptoms but not all sufferers experience all of them and the disease can progress at different rates.
MRI scans have been used as a diagnostic tool to detect white matter lesions in the brain but these are not always an indicator of the disease.

Now a research team at Nottingham has found a way to use clinical MRI to distinguish between MS lesions and other brain white spots which are found in multiple sclerosis.
The study is published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal.

They have used a clinical MRI scanner of the type all neuroscience centres have to carry out a special type of scan called a T2-weighted imaging process which is able to reveal lesions in the brain's white matter that are centred on a vein, a known indicator of multiple sclerosis.

A total of 40 patients were recruited from the neurology outpatients' department of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Initially a test cohort of 10 patients with multiple sclerosis and 10 patients with non-multiple sclerosis white brain matter lesions were scanned.
Anonymised scans were analysed blinded to clinical data and simple diagnostic rules were devised.
The same rules were applied to a validation cohort of 20 patients ( 13 with multiple sclerosis and 7 with other lesions ) by a blinded observer.

Within the test cohort, all patients with multiple sclerosis had central veins in more than 45% of brain lesions, while the rest had central veins visible in less than 45% of lesions.
Then, by applying the same diagnostic rules to the second cohort, all the remaining patients were correctly categorised into multiple sclerosis or non-multiple sclerosis, by the blinded observer, taking less than two minutes per scan.

The new study is significant because currently among patients referred to MS treatment centres with suspected multiple sclerosis, fewer than 50% are found to have it.
This shows that diagnosing multiple sclerosis in a significant minority of cases can be challenging. ( Xagena )

Source: University of Nottingham, 2016