Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre

Welcome to the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre. This website is intended for international healthcare professionals with an interest in Multiple Sclerosis. By clicking the link below you are declaring and confirming that you are a healthcare professional

You are here

Use of MRI as a Monitoring Tool (CMSC 2016)

Initial lesion load predicts long-term disability in newly diagnosed MS patients according to a presentation at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC), held June 1-4 in National Harbor, MD.

MS pathogenesis usually begins about 10 years prior to MS diagnosis when the patient first experiences symptoms explained Gavin Giovannoni, MBBCh, PhD, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, UK. Baseline lesion load as detected by MRI is a good indicator of how long the disease has been active.[1] Brain atrophy starts early in the disease and persists throughout the disease course. Many studies have shown that MRI is a reliable surrogate for clinical disease activity.

The term ‘no evidence of disease activity’ (NEDA) was recently coined, and is meant to describe periods of time when the patient is free from MS disease activity in place of using the term ‘cured.’ Brain atrophy detected with MRI can be used to measure disease activity. Patients with greater brain volume loss are more likely to have increasing EDSS scores over time.

Assessing brain atrophy rates in MS patients in day to day practice is time consuming and difficult. Dr. Giovannoni mentioned freely-available software that can perform global volumetric analysis, known as structural image evaluation using normalization of atrophy (SIENA) that can be used to track individual patient changes in brain volume over time with repeated MRI scans. He also cautioned that there is some intra- and inter-scanner variability. At this time, there is too much variability in MRI techniques to use brain atrophy measures on an individual patient level. Establishing specific ‘cut-off’ values for brain atrophy in MS could be another way to determine ‘pathological’ brain volume rates in patients with MS.[2]

Dr. Giovannoni stressed that standardized MRI protocols for measuring brain lesions will be key. MRI monitoring is a potentially useful tool to monitor treatment and inform clinical decisions in MS treatment.


Sormani MP, Bruzzi P. MRI lesions as a surrogate for relapses in multiple sclerosis: a meta-analysis of randomised trials. Lancet Neurol. 2013 Jul;12(7):669-76.

De Stefano N, Stromillo ML, Giorgio A, et al. Establishing pathological cut-offs of brain atrophy rates in multiple sclerosis. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2016. Jan;87(1):93-9.

Search this site

Stay up-to-date with our monthly e-alert

If you want to regularly receive information on what is happening in MS research sign up to our e-alert.

Subscribe »

About the Editors

  • Prof Timothy Vartanian

    Timothy Vartanian, Professor at the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Department of Neurology, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell...
  • Dr Claire S. Riley

    Claire S. Riley, MD is an assistant attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology in the Neurological Institute, Columbia University,...
  • Dr Rebecca Farber

    Rebecca Farber, MD is an attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at the Neurological Institute, Columbia University, in New...

This online Resource Centre has been made possible by a donation from EMD Serono, Inc., a business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

Note that EMD Serono, Inc., has no editorial control or influence over the content of this Resource Centre. The Resource Centre and all content therein are subject to an independent editorial review.

The Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation
supports promising translational research projects by academic researchers to improve understanding of multiple sclerosis (MS) for the ultimate benefit of patients.  For full information and application details, please click here

Journal Editor's choice

Recommended by Prof. Brenda Banwell

Causes of death among persons with multiple sclerosis

Gary R. Cutter, Jeffrey Zimmerman, Amber R. Salter, et al.

Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, September 2015, Vol 4 Issue 5