R Woitek, F Leutmezer, A Dal-Bianco, J Furtner, G Kasprian, D Prayer, V Schöpf
BACKGROUND: Despite strongly overlapping patterns of clinical and histopathologic findings in primary and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, differences concerning motor symptoms, central nervous system inflammation, atrophy, and demyelination that cannot be accounted for by lesion load alone remain to be elucidated. PURPOSE: To evaluate the normal-appearing deep gray matter in patients with primary and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, diffusion tensor imaging was used in this study. MATERIAL AND METHODS: In 14 multiple sclerosis patients with primary and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, axial echo-planar single-shot diffusion tensor imaging sequences with 32 diffusion-encoding directions and axial FLAIR sequences were acquired on a 3T system using an eight-channel SENSE head coil. FLAIR hyperintense multiple sclerosis lesions were outlined semi-automatically and normal-appearing deep gray matter was outlined manually (caudate nucleus, globus pallidus, putamen, thalamus, substantia nigra, and red nucleus). Fractional anisotropy and mean diffusivity values within the normal-appearing deep gray matter for the two groups were compared. RESULTS: Interhemispheric differences in mean diffusivity values (but not in fractional anisotropy), were significantly higher in primary progressive multiple sclerosis than in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis for the substantia nigra ( P = 0.04) and the putamen ( P = 0.021). Volumes, mean diffusivity, or fractional anisotropy of the remaining normal-appearing deep gray matter did not differ significantly. CONCLUSION: This study showed a higher interhemispheric difference in the mean diffusivity in the substantia nigra and putamen in patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis than in those with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. These changes may represent edema, as well as axonal and myelin loss that can affect the normal-appearing deep gray matter of the two hemispheres differently and may point to differences in the laterality of motor symptoms.