Disruption of the leptomeningeal blood barrier in neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder

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Abstract

Objective:

To describe leptomeningeal blood-barrier impairment reflected by MRI gadolinium-enhanced lesions in patients with aquaporin-4 immunoglobulin G (AQP4-IgG)–positive neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).

Methods:

A retrospective case series of 11 AQP4-IgG–positive NMOSD patients with leptomeningeal enhancement (LME) were collected from 5 centers. External neuroradiologists, blinded to the clinical details, evaluated MRIs.

Results:

LME was demonstrated on postcontrast T1-weighted and fluid-attenuated inversion recovery images as a sign of leptomeningeal blood-barrier disruption and transient leakage of contrast agent into the subarachnoid space in 11 patients, 6 in the brain and 6 in the spinal cord. The patterns of LME were linear or extensive and were accompanied by periependymal enhancement in 5 cases and intraparenchymal enhancement in all cases. The location of LME in the spinal cord was adjacent to intraparenchymal contrast enhancement with involvement of a median number of 12 (range 5–17) vertebral segments. At the time of LME on MRI, all patients had a clinical attack such as encephalopathy (36%) and/or myelopathy (70%) with median interval between symptom onset and LME of 12 days (range 2–30). LME occurred in association with an initial area postrema attack (44%), signs of systemic infection (33%), or AQP4-IgG in CSF (22%) followed by clinical progression. LME was found at initial clinical presentation in 5 cases and at clinical relapses leading to a diagnosis of NMOSD in 6 cases.

Conclusion:

This study suggests that altered leptomeningeal blood barrier may be accompanied by intraparenchymal blood-brain barrier breakdown in patients with AQP4-IgG–positive NMOSD during relapses.

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