Progression of regional grey matter atrophy in multiple sclerosis

From : Brain, Volume 141, Issue 6, 1 June 2018, Pages 1665-1677

Grey matter atrophy is present from the earliest stages of multiple sclerosis, but its temporal ordering is poorly understood.

The first regions to become atrophic in patients with clinically isolated syndrome and relapse-onset multiple sclerosis were the posterior cingulate cortex and precuneus, followed by the middle cingulate cortex, brainstem and thalamus. A similar sequence of atrophy was detected in primary-progressive multiple sclerosis with the involvement of the thalamus, cuneus, precuneus, and pallidum, followed by the brainstem and posterior cingulate cortex. The cerebellum, caudate and putamen showed early atrophy in relapse-onset multiple sclerosis and late atrophy in primary-progressive multiple sclerosis. Patients with secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis showed the highest event-based model stage (the highest number of atrophic regions, P < 0.001) at the study entry. All multiple sclerosis phenotypes, but clinically isolated syndrome, showed a faster rate of increase in the event-based model stage than healthy controls. T2 lesion load and disease duration in all patients were associated with increased event-based model stage, but no effects of disease-modifying treatments and comorbidity on event-based model stage were observed. The annualized rate of event-based model stage was associated with the disability accumulation in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, independent of disease duration (P < 0.0001). The data-driven staging of atrophy progression in a large multiple sclerosis sample demonstrates that grey matter atrophy spreads to involve more regions over time. The sequence in which regions become atrophic is reasonably consistent across multiple sclerosis phenotypes.

The spread of atrophy was associated with disease duration and with disability accumulation over time in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.