OBJECTIVES: To compare clinical and MRI parameters between patients with clinically isolated syndrome and those converting to clinically definite multiple sclerosis within 2 years, to identify volumetric MRI predictors of this conversion and to assess effect of early relapses.
METHODS: The SET study comprised 220 patients with clinically isolated syndrome treated with interferon beta (mean age, 29 years; Expanded Disability Status Scale, 1.5). Three patients with missing data were excluded from the analysis. Physical disability, time to clinically definite multiple sclerosis and volumetric MRI data were recorded for 2 years.
RESULTS: Patients reaching clinically definite multiple sclerosis showed impaired recovery of neurological function, faster decrease in corpus callosum cross-sectional area, higher T2 lesion volume and more contrast-enhancing lesions. Six-month decrease in corpus callosum cross-sectional area (≥1%) and baseline T2 lesion volume (≥5 cm(3)) predicted clinically definite multiple sclerosis within 2 years (hazard ratios 2.5 and 1.8, respectively). Of 22 patients fulfilling both predictive criteria, 83% reached clinically definite multiple sclerosis (hazard ratio 6.5). More relapses were associated with poorer recovery of neurological function and accelerated brain atrophy.
CONCLUSIONS: Neurological impairment is more permanent, brain atrophy is accelerated and focal inflammatory activity is greater in patients converting to clinically definite multiple sclerosis. Six-month corpus callosum atrophy and baseline T2 lesion volume jointly help predict individual risk of clinically definite multiple sclerosis. Early relapses contribute to permanent damage of the central nervous system.
Brain shrinkage occurs early and people at CIS are more likely to go on MS if there is apparent inflammation and atrophy. Early relapses are important to the development of damage.