Magnetic susceptibility contrast variations in multiple sclerosis lesions

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Recent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have revealed heterogeneous magnetic susceptibility contrasts in multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions. Due to its sensitivity to disease-related iron and myelin changes, magnetic susceptibility-based measures may better reflect some pathological features of MS lesions. Hence, we sought to characterize MS lesions using combined R2* mapping and quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM).

Materials and Methods:

In all, 306 MS lesions were selected from 24 MS patients who underwent 7T MRI. Maps of R2*, frequency, and quantitative susceptibility were calculated using acquired multiecho gradient echo (GRE) phase data. Lesions were categorized based on their image intensity or their anatomical locations. R2* and susceptibility values were quantified in each lesion based on manually drawn lesion masks and compared between lesion groups showing different contrast patterns. Correlations between R2* and susceptibility were also tested in these lesion groups.


In 38% of selected lesions the frequency map did not show the same contrast pattern as the susceptibility map. While most lesions (93%) showed hypointensity on R2*, the susceptibility contrast in lesions varied, with 40% being isointense and 58% being hyperintense in the lesion core. Significant correlations (r = 0.31, P < 0.001) between R2* and susceptibility were found in susceptibility hyperintense lesions, but not in susceptibility isointense lesions. In addition, a higher proportion (74%) of periventricular lesions was found to be susceptibility hyperintense as compared to subcortical (53%) or juxtacortical (38%) lesions.


Combining R2* and QSM is useful to characterize heterogeneity in MS lesions. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2016;43:463–473.

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