A group of 202 patients with suspected, probable or definite multiple sclerosis was studied, using cranial computed tomography (CT). Atrophy alone, or in combination with white-matter and periventricular lucencies, and areas of contrast enhancement, were the main abnormal findings in 52% of patients. Atrophy was detected in 44% of patients, and its frequency and severity correlated with disease duration up to 10 years, age, and disease category. Atrophic changes in the brainstem and cerebellum could be correlated with clinical data more often than supratentorial atrophy could be correlated with features such as dementia or mood changes. Lucencies in the white matter, thought to represent areas of demyelination, were noted in 21% of patients, and only a proportion of these lesions could be correlated with clinical data, the others being clinically silent. Contrast enhancement was seen in a small proportion of white-matter lesions, and was independent of disease activity and steroid medication. Electrophysiological tests and cerebrospinal fluid analysis showed a higher yield of abnormality than CT scanning in cases with suspected or possible multiple sclerosis, though in such patients CT scanning excluded alternative cerebral atrophy. Modifications of the technique of CT scanning may improve the detection rate of white-matter lesions, thereby enhancing the value of CT as a diagnostic tool in the study of patients with multiple sclerosis.
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