Multiple sclerosis (MS) occurs when an unexpected immune system response is directed against the central nervous system (CNS).1,2 The immune system primarily targets the myelin, or protective coating that surround nerve fibers which is damaged or destroyed. These different areas develop scar tissue, which gives the disease its name. Multiple refers to the number of areas that it affects and sclerosis identifies it as thick scar tissue. The cause of MS is unknown, and the disease is incurable. Treatments may help with recovery and management of symptoms or modify the course of the disease.
There is no specific test for MS, and physicians will probably run multiple different tests to rule out other diseases with similar symptoms. The tests that a physician may run include blood tests, spinal tap, magnetic resonance imaging or evoked potential tests.1,2 Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) produces images of the tissue structures and, in some cases, fluid contents within a region of interest. It is currently one of the most sensitive non-invasive ways to image the brain and spinal cord.1
MRI has a chance of showing lesions created from a demyelinating attack. This can aid doctors in their decisions about the cause of a patient's symptoms and guide treatment of symptoms. If the patient is scanned again, the images may show the changes caused in the patient's body by MS.3
Dr. Staley A. Brod, a professor of neurology and the chief of neuroimmunology and multiple sclerosis at the Medical College of Wisconsin, believes that much of the disease process for MS patients is difficult to see and may be "under the radar." Advances in MRI technology that have improved spatial resolution have allowed for more consistency between scans. This, in turn, can help physicians monitor the progress of the disease. According to Brod, MR results can show more than what can be seen through clinical symptoms.4
A neuroradiologist at the Centre Imagerie du Nord in Paris, Dr. Pascal Roux, believes that the increased quality provided by new advances in technology improve a physician's confidence when dealing with MS patients. Additionally, patients may be more comfortable with MRI scans that they have been in the past, because traditional scans could take 25-30 minutes instead of the current 10-minute scan. This reduction in scan time is due to recent advancements in MR. New software uses deep-learning to help with the scan. With deep-learning, software may be able to suggest image slices that a physician or radiologist may find useful. Additionally, the computer may use newer software to help identify possible lesions within a patient's brain.4 With longitudinal scanning, physicians may be able to track changes within a patient's legions to understand how effective the treatment is.
The faster, more consistent scans possible with machine-learning techniques and software enable physicians to be more confident when dealing with patients with multiple sclerosis. Drs. Brod and Roux believe that the new scan technology will aid future patients, as well as physicians.4 Current patients can be confident that their scans may help others in their situations in the future.
For more information, check out this article about "How Innovative MRI Technology Is Helping Optimize MS Patient Diagnosis and Long-Term Treatment."
1. "Definition of MS." nationalmssociety.org. Web. 21 March 2019. <https://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/Definition-of-MS>.
2. Mayo Clinic Staff. "Multiple sclerosis." MayoClinic.org. 12 March 2019. Web. 21 March 2019. <https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350269>.
3. "Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)." nationalmssociety.org. Web. 21 March 2019. <https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/Diagnosing-Tools/MRI>.
4. Kristen Castillo. "How Innovative MRI Technology Is Helping Optimize MS Patient Diagnosis and Long-Term Treatment." Mediaplanet. 21 March 2019. Web. 21 March 2019. <http://www.futureofpersonalhealth.com/sponsored/how-innovative-mri-technology-is-helping-optimize-ms-patient-diagnosis-and-long-term-treatment>.