If you have multiple sclerosis (MS) in addition to chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, a study indicates magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can chart the course of your MS. In addition, the data may help physicians predict the effect of different treatments for MS.
A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia found that brain shrinkage, a phenomenon associated with the potentially disabling nature of MS, is measurable and can serve as an indication of the progression of MS.
The study compared 36 patients with MS to 20 healthy control subjects. The researchers measured the amount of brain tissue within the skull, determining a percentage. They patients were re-measured from one to seven years to compare the amounts of atrophy suffered by the brain.
From the outset, the MS group measured in at a smaller volume for brain parenchyma volume (PBV). The MS group lost brain tissue at a rate of nine times faster than the control group. Although all members lost a percentage of brain tissue, that of the secondary progressive MS was the relative highest.
Patients’ expanded disability status scales (EDSS) were also used as part of the study. The researchers report the EDSS score only changed for the patients with secondary progressive MS, and that the change corresponded negatively to the shrinking of the brain.
Besides EDSS scores, the study did not find any measurable difference between the two types of MS they surveyed – those with relapsing-remitting MS and secondary progressive MS. This suggests that the findings are pertinent to those with CFS or FM whose health is further complicated by either variety of MS. On the other hand, the difference between the 36 with MS as a group and the control group was definitive.
How exactly can this measurement help you? Since the brain is found to shrink with MS, and symptoms become correspondingly worse, scanning the brain and tracking this shrinkage may help to predict when to expect this worsening of symptoms. And even more importantly, with these advanced techniques, researchers may be able to better determine the usefulness of particular drug therapies.
SOURCE: Reuters Health online: www.reutershealth.com