In a paper published in today's issue of Neurology, Dr. Elliott Frohman and his colleagues said data suggest that advanced applications of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can be used in concert with clinical observations to diagnose the complex neurological disorder more quickly.
"This assessment provides compelling evidence that in the majority of patients with a first MS-like attack, the presence of characteristic MRI lesions within the central nervous system strongly predicts future conversion to clinically definite MS," said Dr. Elliot Frohman, lead author of the paper and head of UT Southwestern's multiple sclerosis program.
Evidence of white matter abnormalities detected in different regions of the brain on a sophisticated MRI scan, when considered in concert with clinical indications of the disease, may effectively replace diagnostic methods that have typically required months or even years of clinical observation, said Dr. Frohman, associate professor of neurology and ophthalmology and holder of the Kenney Marie Dixon-Pickens Distinguished Professorship in Multiple Sclerosis Research and the Irene Wadel and Robert I. Atha Distinguished Chair in Neurology.
Until recently, conclusive diagnosis of multiple sclerosis has required lengthy clinical observation of the complex grouping of symptoms, including signs of the disease in different parts of the nervous system and instances of at least two separate flare-ups of symptoms occurring at least one month apart.
But new imaging technology produces MRI scans that depict white matter abnormalities in such a way that they provide doctors definitive evidence that the injuries occurred over time, eliminating the need for time-separated clinical observation.