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MRI scans can predict effects of MS flare-ups on optic nerve
Date:12/16/2008

St. Louis, Dec. 16, 2008 One of the most pernicious aspects of multiple sclerosis (MS) its sheer unpredictability may finally be starting to yield to advanced medical imaging techniques.

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report online in the journal Neurology that an approach known as magnetic resonance diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) allowed them to estimate three months in advance the chronic effects of inflammation of the optic nerve. The condition occurs most often as a result of MS, a neurodegenerative disorder that can present with an extremely broad variety of symptoms that range from vision loss and other sensory damage to muscle weakness, spasticity or paralysis to depression, sleep loss or incontinence. MS affects an estimated 500,000 Americans.

"We see this as part of a battery of tests we hope to give patients within the next decade to help our clinical assessment and tailor it to an optimal treatment," says lead author Robert T. Naismith, M.D., assistant professor of neurology and a staff physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. "It may also help further refine our basic understanding of MS in terms of expanding our insights into where and how damage occurs and why it can affect patients differently."

Scientists believe MS results from misdirected immune system attacks against the nervous system. Symptoms occur in bouts that vary unpredictably in nature, severity, duration and frequency. Symptoms of optic nerve inflammation, known as optic neuritis, include loss of vision, blurring or fogginess and pain in the affected eye.

Regular MRI scans can detect optic neuritis but offer no information on its severity and potential lasting consequences for a patient's vision.

Currently in use clinically to detect and follow up on strokes, DTI uses a rapid series of MRI scans to track water diffusion in tissue. Noting that inflammation and the cell damage it causes would
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Contact: Michael C. Purdy
purdym@wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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