MRI in multiple sclerosis: what is changing?

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Abstract

Purpose of review

To summarize recent findings from the application of MRI in the diagnostic work-up of patients with suspected multiple sclerosis (MS), and to review the insights into disease pathophysiology and the utility of MRI for monitoring treatment response.

Recent findings

New evidence from the application of MRI in patients with clinically isolated syndromes has guided the 2017 revision of the McDonald criteria for MS diagnosis, which has simplified their clinical use while preserving accuracy. Other MRI measures (e.g., cortical lesions and central vein signs) may improve diagnostic specificity, but their assessment still needs to be standardized, and their reliability confirmed. Novel MRI techniques are providing fundamental insights into the pathological substrates of the disease and are helping to give a better understanding of its clinical manifestations. Combined clinical-MRI measures of disease activity and progression, together with the use of clinically relevant MRI measures (e.g., brain atrophy) might improve treatment monitoring, but these are still not ready for the clinical setting.

Summary

Advances in MRI technology are improving the diagnostic work-up and monitoring of MS, even in the earliest phases of the disease, and are providing MRI measures that are more specific and sensitive to disease pathological substrates.

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