Atrophied Brain T2 Lesion Volume at MRI Is Associated with Disability Progression and Conversion to Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

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Together with whole-brain atrophy, atrophied brain T2 lesion volume seen with MRI is used to predict multiple sclerosis (MS) disability progression and is the only MRI feature related to conversion of clinically isolated syndrome and relapsing-remitting MS into secondary progressive MS.


Atrophied T2 lesion volume at MRI is an imaging measure that reflects the replacement of T2 lesions by cerebrospinal fluid spaces in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).


To investigate the association of atrophied T2 lesion volume and development of disability progression (DP) and conversion to secondary progressive MS (SPMS).

Materials and Methods

This retrospective study included 1612 participants recruited from 2006 to 2016 and followed up for 5 years with clinical and MRI examinations. Accumulation of T2 lesion volume, atrophied T2 lesion volume, percentage brain volume change (PBVC), and percentage ventricular volume change (PVVC) were measured. Disability progression and secondary progressive conversion were defined by using standardized guidelines. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) adjusted for age and Cox regression adjusted for age and sex were used to compare study groups and explore associations between MRI and clinical outcomes.


A total of 1314 patients with MS (1006 women; mean age, 46 years ± 11 [standard deviation]) and 124 patients with clinically isolated syndrome (100 women; mean age, 39 years ± 11) along with 147 healthy control subjects (97 women; mean age, 42 years ± 13) were evaluated. A total of 336 of 1314 (23%) patients developed DP, and in 67 of 1213 (5.5%) the disease converted from clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) or relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) to SPMS. Patients with conversion to DP had higher atrophied T2 lesion volume (+34.4 mm3; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 17.2 mm3, 51.5 mm3; d = 0.27; P < .001) and PBVC (−0.21%; 95% CI: −0.36%, −0.05%; d = 0.19; P = .042) but not PVVC (0.36%; 95% CI: −0.93%, 1.65%; d = 0.04; P = .89) or T2 lesion volume change (−64.5 mm3; 95% CI: −315.2 mm3, 186.3 mm3; d = 0.03; P = .67) when compared with DP nonconverters. ANCOVA showed that atrophied T2 lesion volume was associated with conversion from CIS or RRMS to SPMS (+26.4 mm3; 95% CI: 4.2 mm3, 56.9 mm3; d = 0.23; P = .002) but not PBVC (−0.14%; 95% CI: −0.46%, 0.18%; d = 0.11; P = .66), PVVC (+0.18%; 95% CI: −2.49%, 2.72%; d = 0.01; P = .75), or T2 lesion volume change (−46.4 mm3; 95% CI: −460.8 mm3, 367.9 mm3; d = 0.03; P = .93). At Cox regression analysis, only atrophied T2 lesion volume was associated with the DP (hazard ratio, 1.23; P < .001) and conversion to SPMS (hazard ratio, 1.16; P = .008).


Atrophied brain T2 lesion volume is a robust MRI marker of MS disability progression and conversion into a secondary progressive disease course.

© RSNA, 2019

Online supplemental material is available for this article.

See also the editorial by Chiang in this issue.


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Article History

Received: Feb 9 2019
Revision requested: Apr 2 2019
Revision received: July 6 2019
Accepted: Aug 9 2019
Published online: Sept 24 2019
Published in print: Nov 2019