Objective: To assess relationships between spinal cord MRI (SC-MRI) and retinal measures, and to evaluate whether these measures independently relate to clinical disability inmultiple sclerosis (MS). Methods: One hundred two patients with MS and 11 healthy controls underwent 3-tesla brain and cervical SC-MRI, which included standard T1- and T2-based sequences and diffusion-tensor and magnetization-transfer imaging, and optical coherence tomography with automated segmentation. Clinical assessments included visual acuity (VA), Expanded Disability Status Scale, MS functional composite, vibration sensation threshold, and hip-flexion strength. Regions of interest circumscribing SC cross-sections at C3-4 were used to obtain cross-sectional area (CSA), fractional anisotropy (FA), perpendicular diffusivity (λ⊥), and magnetization transfer ratio. Multivariable regression assessed group differences and SC, retinal, and clinical relationships. Results: In MS, there were correlations between SC-CSA, SC-FA, SC-λ⊥, and peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (pRNFL) (p = 0.01, p = 0.002, p = 0.001, respectively) after adjusting for age, sex, prior optic neuritis, and brain atrophy. In multivariable clinical models, when SC-CSA, pRNFL, and brain atrophy were included simultaneously, SC-CSA and pRNFL retained independent relationships with low-contrast VA (p = 0.04, p = 0.002, respectively), high-contrast VA (p = 0.06, p = 0.008), and vibration sensation threshold (p = 0.01, p = 0.05). SC-CSA alone retained independent relationships with Expanded Disability Status Scale (p = 0.001), hip-flexion strength (p = 0.001), and MS functional composite (p = 0.004). Conclusions: In this cross-sectional study of patients with MS, correlations exist between SC-MRI and retinal layers, and both exhibit independent relationships with clinical dysfunction. These findings suggest that the SC and optic nerve reflect ongoing global pathologic processes that supplement measures of whole-brain atrophy, highlighting the importance of combining measures from unique compartments to facilitate a thorough examination of regional and global disease processes that contribute to clinical disability in MS.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology