DALLAS – MRI has long been important in both diagnosis and management of multiple sclerosis (MS). It’s more important than ever though, as perivenular demyelinating lesions emerge as a potential biomarker of the disease, and a key tool in precision medicine initiatives that target MS.
“The central vein sign is at the current time still a research tool that is being touted as an imaging finding that may be a very useful biomarker for diagnosis in MS,” said, in an interview at the meeting presented by the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis.
It’s almost ready for “prime time,” she said, “because it can easily be acquired on most conventional 3 Tesla MRI scanners, the sequences that you use don’t require an inordinate amount of time [and] it doesn’t take too much training to be able to easily identify the sign.”
A number of groups have evaluated the central vein sign and are finding it “a very specific biomarker” for MS, Dr. Oh said.
“It would be very useful in very early stages of diagnosis because it would prevent people from being misdiagnosed” and being treated unnecessarily, she said.
In her own work, Dr. Oh and her collaborators are following a cohort of people with radiologically isolated syndrome (RIS) discovered incidentally on brain imaging. “It’s a very valuable patient population to study because it may give us insight into the very earliest stages of MS,” as the lesions were not accompanied by any symptoms when they were first noticed.
Dr. Oh and her colleagues are finding that, among RIS patients, “the vast, vast majority of people have lesions with central veins; in our cohort, over 90% of patients met the 40% threshold that has been proposed to distinguish MS from other white matter changes.”
Dr. Oh said that the central vein sign may prove to be prognostic among RIS patients; they continue to follow the cohort being studied at the University of Toronto, where Dr. Oh is a neurologist.