With the increased use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for a broad spectrum of medical diagnoses, doctors have become more aware of incidental anomalies in patients’ brain scans – abnormalities that appear to be early indicators of multiple sclerosis (MS), even among patients who don’t exhibit symptoms. Although such abnormalities are encountered routinely, it had not been measured whether these patients eventually developed MS.

A new study published on Dec. 10, 2008, online by Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that one-third of such patients developed MS within an average of about five years.

“The findings are important in that we’re capturing MS prior to the onset of symptoms. It would be fantastic if we could one day intervene to prevent MS symptoms from ever occurring,” said Darin T. Okuda, MD, lead author of the study and assistant clinical professor in UCSF’s Department of Neurology.

“It’s also scientifically interesting that some patients, asymptomatic of MS, have brain changes specific to the disease,” Okuda said. “We’re continuing to learn more by looking at clinical and genetic predictors, gene expression predictors, along with comprehensive neurological and neuropsychiatric measures – anything that can add to the breadth of data in an effort to enhance our knowledge of the underlying biology of MS.”

Okuda and his colleagues are calling the condition the radiologically isolated syndrome.

Incidental MRI Anomalies Suggestive of Multiple Sclerosis:
The Radiologically Isolated Syndrome


D.T. Okuda, E.M. Mowry, A. Beheshtian, E. Waubant, S.E. Baranzini, D.S. Goodin, S.L. Hauser and D. Pelletier
Neurology, (published online, Dec. 10, 2008)
Abstract

Related Links:

If MRI Shows Signs of MS, Will the Disease Develop?
American Academy of Neurology Press Release, Dec. 10, 2008

High Risk of Conversion to Multiple Sclerosis Predicted by Gene Activity
UCSF News Release, Aug. 8, 2008

 

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