Magnetic resonance imaging (more commonly referred to as MRI) has been an extremely valuable tool for people both experiencing and treating multiple sclerosis, so much so that a group made up of neurologists and radiologists from around the globe has developed a specific set of guidelines that are used by healthcare professionals to effectively assist in the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and the subsequent follow up cases of someone with the illness. In this article, we take a look at how and why MRI has been considered such a valuable asset when it comes to multiple sclerosis.
How MRIs are related to multiple sclerosis
Before we get into it, it should be known that although for multiple sclerosis MRI is an extremely valuable tool, it’s certainly not the be all and end all of diagnosis when it comes to the disease – instead, it represents an invaluable tool in the arsenal of healthcare professionals. This is because there is actually no one tool that can successfully diagnose a case of multiple sclerosis, but with the use of MRI technology, this has at the very least been made easier. In essence, magnetic resonance imaging differs from x-ray in that it does not produce radiation, but instead uses a combination of magnetic fields and radio waves alongside a computer to produce scans of the human brain. In the case of multiple sclerosis, it is an excellent way to see areas where myelin has been damaged. The damaged areas when shown on an MRI are depicted as white patches, making them very easy to see. For this reason, MRIs are so valuable because they can provide a very accurate means of assessing if someone has multiple sclerosis after they exhibit their first symptoms or experience some form of relapse.
MRI and MS specifics
Although you might think that an MRI might confuse by showing lesions that are caused by other sources, MRI works so well because the provided guidelines allow for the accurate differentiation between lesions caused by MS and those that are related to other diseases that may nonetheless resemble those from MS. This is because the lesions created by multiple sclerosis have unique shapes as well as specific locations where they commonly occur, such as areas near the brain’s blood vessels, the optic nerves and the spinal cord. MRI is also useful in locations related to atrophy. As we briefly touched on previously, MRI can also be used to identify new lesions, which also helps make it a valuable tool to determine the progression of the illness. If there is no evidence of clinical relapses and no new signs of activity on the MRI, then healthcare professionals can go about recommending options for rehabilitation, otherwise new treatments can be rapidly implemented.
Complementary diagnosis tools
In addition to an MRI, electrical conduction tests, eye tests, blood tests and combinations of physical and neurological examinations are used to more accurately determine the presence and extent of multiple sclerosis. Using these tools, healthcare professionals can more reliably find the location of lesions on brain, optic nerves or spinal cord and prescribe the most beneficial treatment possible, as treatment can often depend largely on these pieces of information, plus it also affords them the knowledge of when to actually start the treatment as this too will vary between people.