Thaler C , Faizy T, Sedlacik J, Holst B, Stellmann JP, Young KL, Heesen C, Fiehler J, Siemonsen S.

BACKGROUND: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is an established tool in diagnosing and evaluating disease activity in Multiple Sclerosis (MS). While clinical-radiological correlations are limited in general, hypointense T1 lesions (also known as Black Holes (BH)) have shown some promising results. The definition of BHs is very heterogeneous and depends on subjective visual evaluation. OBJECTIVE: We aimed to improve clinical-radiological correlations by defining BHs using T1 relaxation time (T1-RT) thresholds to achieve best possible correlation between BH lesion volume and clinical disability. METHOD: 40 patients with mainly relapsing-remitting MS underwent MRI including 3-dimensional fluid attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR), magnetization-prepared rapid gradient echo (MPRAGE) before and after Gadolinium (GD) injection and double inversion-contrast magnetization-prepared rapid gradient echo (MP2RAGE) sequences. BHs (BHvis) were marked by two raters on native T1-weighted (T1w)-MPRAGE, contrast-enhancing lesions (CE lesions) on T1w-MPRAGE after GD and FLAIR lesions (total-FLAIR lesions) were detected separately. BHvis and total-FLAIR lesion maps were registered to MP2RAGE images, and the mean T1-RT were calculated for all lesion ROIs. Mean T1 values of the cortex (CTX) were calculated for each patient. Subsequently, Spearman rank correlations between clinical scores (Expanded Disability Status Scale and Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite) and lesion volume were determined for different T1-RT thresholds. RESULTS: Significant differences in T1-RT were obtained between all different lesion types with highest T1 values in visually marked BHs (BHvis: 1453.3±213.4 ms, total-FLAIR lesions: 1394.33±187.38 ms, CTX: 1305.6±35.8 ms; p<0.05). Significant correlations between BHvis/total-FLAIR lesion volume and clinical disability were obtained for a wide range of T1-RT thresholds. The highest correlation for BHvis and total-FLAIR lesion masks were found at T1-RT>1500 ms (Expanded Disability Status Scale vs. lesion volume: rBHvis = 0.442 and rtotal-FLAIR = 0.497, p<0.05; Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite vs. lesion volume: rBHvis = -0.53 and rtotal-FLAIR = -0.627, p<0.05). CONCLUSION: Clinical-radiological correlations in MS patients are increased by application of T1-RT thresholds. With the short acquisition time of the MP2RAGE sequences, quantitative T1 maps could be easily established in clinical studies.

PLoS One. 2015;10(12):e0144693

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