Spinal cord reserve in multiple sclerosis.

Jaume Sastre-Garriga, Alex Rovira, Aran García-Vidal, Pere Carbonell-Mirabent, Manel Alberich, Ángela Vidal-Jordana, Cristina Auger, Mar Tintore, X Montalban, Deborah Pareto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: The spinal cord (SC) is a preferential target of multiple sclerosis (MS) damage highly relevant towards disability. Differential impact of such damage could be due to the initial amount of SC tissue, as described for the brain parenchyma (brain reserve concept). We aimed to test the existence of SC reserve by using spinal canal area (SCaA) as a proxy. Methods: Brain sagittal three-dimensional T1-weighted scans covering down to C5 level were acquired in 2930 people with MS and 43 healthy controls (HCs) in a cross-sectional, multicentre study. SC area (SCA) and SCaA were obtained with the Spinal Cord Toolbox. Demographical data and patient-derived disability scores were obtained. SC parameters were compared between groups with age-adjusted and sex-adjusted linear regression models. The main outcome of the study, the existence of an association between SCaA and Patient Determined Disease Steps, was tested with scaled linear models. Results: 1747 persons with MS (mean age: 46.35 years; 73.2% female) and 42 HCs (mean age: 45.56 years; 78.6% female) were analysed after exclusion of post-processing errors and application of quality criteria. SCA (60.41 mm2 vs 65.02 mm2, p<0.001) was lower in people with MS compared with HC; no differences in SCaA were observed (213.24 mm2 vs 212.61 mm2, p=0.125). Adjusted scaled linear models showed that a larger SCaA was significantly associated with lower scores on Patient Determined Disease Steps (beta coefficient: -0.12, p=0.0124) independently of spinal cord atrophy, brain T2 lesion volume, age and sex. Conclusions: A larger SCaA may be protective against disability in MS, possibly supporting the existence of SC reserve.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjnnp-2022-330613
Pages (from-to)330613
JournalJournal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry
Early online date23 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2023


  • image analysis
  • multiple sclerosis


Dive into the research topics of 'Spinal cord reserve in multiple sclerosis.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this