SWI as an Alternative to Contrast-Enhanced Imaging to Detect Acute MS Lesions

G. Caruana, C. Auger, L. M. Pessini, W. Calderon, A. de Barros, A. Salerno, J. Sastre-Garriga, X. Montalban, Àlex Rovira*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Acute inflammatory activity of MS lesions is traditionally assessed through contrast-enhanced T1-weighted MR images. The aim of our study was to determine whether a qualitative evaluation of non-contrast-enhanced SWI of new T2-hyperintense lesions might help distinguish acute and chronic lesions and whether it could be considered a possible alternative to gadolinium-based contrast agents for this purpose. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Serial MR imaging studies from 55 patients with MS were reviewed to identify 169 new T2-hyperintense lesions. Two blinded neuroradiologists determined their signal pattern on SWI, considering 5 categories (hypointense rings, marked hypointensity, mild hypointensity, iso-/hyperintensity, indeterminate). Two different blinded neuroradiologists evaluated the presence or absence of enhancement in postcontrast T1-weighted images of the lesions. The Fisher exact test was used to determine whether each category of signal intensity on SWI was associated with gadolinium enhancement. RESULTS: The presence of hypointense rings or marked hypointensity showed a strong association with the absence of gadolinium enhancement (P, .001), with a sensitivity of 93.0% and a specificity of 82.9%. The presence of mild hypointensity or isohyperintensity showed a strong association with the presence of gadolinium enhancement (P, .001), with a sensitivity of 68.3% and a specificity of 99.2%. CONCLUSIONS: A qualitative analysis of the signal pattern on SWI of new T2-hyperintense MS lesions allows determining the likelihood that the lesions will enhance after administration of a gadolinium contrast agent, with high specificity albeit with a moderate sensitivity. While it cannot substitute for the use of contrast agent, it can be useful in some clinical settings in which the contrast agent cannot be administered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534-539
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


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