mri scan of the brain

MRI scans could help predict MS progression

New research has found that MRI scans can help predict how MS will progress. MRI is already used to diagnose MS.

Results of a long-term study are being announced at the MS Society’s research conference, MS Frontiers 2017. The event brings together the UK’s leading scientists and clinicians every other year to share their latest findings.

Long-term insights

The study at the Queen Square Multiple Sclerosis Centre ran for 15 years and involved 164 people with clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). People with CIS have experienced one episode of neurological symptoms and often go on to be diagnosed with MS.

Researchers looked back at MRI scans carried out when people were first diagnosed with CIS. They found that early spinal cord damage was a sign that people were much more likely to go on to develop the secondary progressive form of MS.

They also discovered that having a spinal cord MRI scan not only helped with diagnosis, but also gave an insight into the level of disability a person was likely to face in the future.

The study was funded by the MS Society and led by Dr Wallace Brownlee and Professor Olga Ciccarelli.

MS progression

Dr Wallace Brownlee said: “We already use MRI scans to diagnose MS and to monitor the course of the disease. Our findings suggest that MRI scans may also help predict long-term prognosis for people with early symptoms of MS.”

Progression is really variable in MS and can be influenced by factors such as age, sex and initial symptoms.

Currently, there’s no way of predicting how a person’s MS might progress, so this new research could help to influence treatment choices.

Reducing uncertainty

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, our Interim Director of Research, said: “Many people with MS tell us they’d really like to know what their prognosis is at diagnosis so they can make a more informed decision about treatment.

“We’re really proud to have funded this work and are now looking forward to the full results being published.”