Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory and neurodegenerative disease affecting the brain and spinal cord. There are over 25,000 Australians living with MS and it is one of the most common causes of neurological (brain and spinal cord) disability in young adults.
In MS clinical practice the appearance of white matter lesions on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans is used to help assess whether inflammatory disease is occurring. However, to date accurate measures of the neurodegenerative component of the disease are lacking and unavailable for use in the clinical setting. The measurement of brain volumes and brain volume change over time using specialised MRI software techniques have been proposed to address this need.
Multiple MRI techniques, that measure brain volumes and volume change, have been previously researched in MS clinical trial populations. Studies indicate that whole brain volume loss in untreated MS patients occurs at a rate of 0.5–1.35% per year, compared to 0.1–0.3% per year in age-matched healthy individuals. Research has also shown that brain volume loss, as measured by specialised MRI software techniques, is associated with and predictive of disability and cognitive decline at the group level.
This project aims to further explore and validate the use of MRI brain volume measurement techniques in a real-world Australian MS patient group. Investigating of the use of these techniques in individual patients will be a particular focus. Both gold standard and novel fully automated MRI software techniques will be studied. Through their association with clinical patient outcomes, MRI brain volume and volume change measures have the potential to help guide MS management decisions and assist with monitoring treatment response; these important aspects will also be explored as part of the project.