Original article| Volume 45, 102317, October 2020

Sex-specific differences in rim appearance of multiple sclerosis lesions on quantitative susceptibility mapping

  • Tolaymat B
    University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, United States
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  • Zheng W
    Department of Neurology, Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Baltimore, MD, United States
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  • Chen H
    University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, United States
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  • Choi S
    University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, United States
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  • Li X
    F. M. Kirby Research Center for Functional Brain Imaging, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, MD, United States

    Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, United States
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  • Harrison DM
    Corresponding author at: 110 South Paca Street Department of Neurology Baltimore, MD 21201 United States
    University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, United States

    Department of Neurology Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, United States

    Department of Neurology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 110 South Paca Street, 3rd Floor, Baltimore, Maryland 201201
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      • Quantitative Susceptibility Mapping (QSM) is a susceptibility MRI technique used in MS
      • An outer rim on a QSM lesion may reflect chronic-active inflammation
      • Males are more likely to have rimmed QSM lesions than females
      • These radiologic findings may reflect sex-specific differences in MS pathophysiology



      Susceptibility MRI techniques, such as phase and quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) reveal lesion heterogeneity in MS, including the presence of lesions with outer rims suggestive of iron accumulation in macrophages and microglia, indicative of chronic-active inflammatory white matter lesions (WMLs).


      To evaluate the in vivo relationship between chronic-active WMLs (as visualized by rimmed lesions on QSM) and several clinical metrics.


      39 patients (15 men, 24 women) with MS underwent 7 Tesla brain MRIs and clinical evaluation. Contrast patterns of lesions identified on FLAIR and quantitative susceptibility maps were reviewed and compared to demographic characteristics and disability scores.


      1279 lesions were identified on FLAIR MRI; 846 (66.2%) of these were visible on QSM, 119 (14.1%) of which had visible rims. Lesions visible on QSM were more likely to have rims in men (16.1%, vs 4.9% in women, p=0.009). In a logistic regression model accounting for several factors, male sex conferred a >10-fold risk of having ≥1 rimmed lesion(s) (p=0.026).


      Our findings provide in vivo support for the body of histopathologic literature indicating sex-specific differences in MS WML formation and suggest that QSM can be used to study these sex differences in the future.


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