MRI Brain Scan May Identify Multiple Sclerosis Risk in Children


A new study published in the recent issue of the journal Neurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation revealed that MRI scans to find the changes in the brain in children with high risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) before the clinical symptoms of the disease appear, might lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.

It may be difficult to protect the patients from MS associated disabilities and relapses by diagnosing the children at the time of disease prognosis. Thus, the researchers from new Yale School of Medicine examined MRI brain scans to identify children at high risk of developing MS in 38 children at 16 sites in 6 countries.

All the children in the study underwent MRI scans for other reasons; most commonly headache, but the MRIs unexpectedly diagnosed the signs of MS. MRI findings of MS without any symptoms of the disease has been termed radiologically isolated syndrome (RIS). Earlier RIS had been seen only in adults.

“For the first time, we have proposed a definition of RIS in children,” said Naila Makhani, assistant professor of pediatrics and neurology at Yale School of Medicine. Children with MRI findings of MS might be at higher risk, so they need to be followed more carefully for the future development of MS, she added.

In the present study, about 42% of children with RIS developed the first clinical symptoms of the disease after two years of abnormal MRI, which indicates the rapid progression of the disease. Children who had a specific marker in spinal fluid or who had MRI changes in the spinal cord were more likely to develop the clinical symptoms of MS.

Five of the children in the study received an approved therapy for MS to avoid the disease. However, with this small population accurate conclusion about the treatment efficacy cannot be concluded. This study would help to design guidelines for the careful follow-up of children with RIS and help the clinicians to inform families regarding the risk of developing MS in future, Makhani concluded