J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 74:203-207 doi:10.1136/jnnp.74.2.203
  • Papers

Pyramidal tract mapping by diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging in multiple sclerosis: improving correlations with disability

  1. L D Blumhardt1
  1. 1Division of Clinical Neurology, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham University, Nottingham, UK
  2. 2Division of Academic Radiology, Nottingham University
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Martin Wilson, Department of Neurology, Hope Hospital, Stott Lane, Manchester M6 8HD, UK;
  • Received 15 April 2002
  • Revised 23 October 2002
  • Accepted 1 November 2002


Background: Current magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) outcome measures such as T2 lesion load correlate poorly with disability in multiple sclerosis. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of the brain can provide unique information regarding the orientation and integrity of white matter tracts in vivo.

Objective: To use this information to map the pyramidal tracts of patients with multiple sclerosis, investigate the relation between burden of disease in the tracts and disability, and compare this with more global magnetic resonance estimates of disease burden.

Methods: 25 patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and 17 healthy volunteers were studied with DTI. An algorithm was used that automatically produced anatomically plausible maps of white matter tracts. The integrity of the pyramidal tracts was assessed using relative anisotropy and a novel measure (Lt) derived from the compounded relative anisotropy along the tracts. The methods were compared with both traditional and more recent techniques for measuring disease burden in multiple sclerosis (T2 lesion load and “whole brain” diffusion histograms).

Results: Relative anisotropy and Lt were significantly lower in patients than controls (p < 0.05). Pyramidal tract Lt in the patients correlated significantly with both expanded disability status scale (r = −0.48, p < 0.05), and to a greater degree, the pyramidal Kurtzke functional system score (KFS-p) (r = −0.75, p < 0.0001). T2 lesion load and diffusion histogram parameters did not correlate with disability.

Conclusions: Tract mapping using DTI is feasible and may increase the specificity of MRI in multiple sclerosis by matching appropriate tracts with specific clinical scoring systems. These techniques may be applicable to a wide range of neurological conditions.

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