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Open Access Research article

Clinical, radiographic characteristics and immunomodulating changes in neuromyelitis optica with extensive brain lesions

Chen Cheng1, Ying Jiang1, Xiaohong Chen1, Yongqiang Dai1, Zhuang Kang2, Zhengqi Lu1, Fuhua Peng1 and Xueqiang Hu1*

Author Affiliations

1 Multiple sclerosis center, Department of Neurology, the Third Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, 600 Tianhe Road, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510630, China

2 Department of Radiology, the Third Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, 600 Tianhe Road, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510630, China

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BMC Neurology 2013, 13:72  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-13-72

Published: 3 July 2013

Abstract

Background

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) shows various brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) abnormalities with recurrent central nervous system (CNS) attacks, although predominantly affecting the spinal cord and optic nerve. However, NMO with extensive involvement of the brain has infrequently been studied. We investigated the clinical, radiographic features and immunomodulating changes of NMO patients with extensive brain lesions (EBLs) in China.

Methods

NMO patients (including 16 NMO patients with EBLs and 53 NMO patients without EBLs) hospitalized during January 2006 and February 2010 were recruited and analyzed retrospectively. Data of clinical characteristics, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) features, laboratory abnormalities, treatment details and outcomes were analyzed. All the patients received the follow-up visits for two years.

Results

EBLs in NMO were classified into four categories according to their respective MRI characteristics: 1) Tumefactive-like lesions (n=4, 25%); 2) Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM)-like lesions (n=6, 37.5%); 3) Multiple sclerosis (MS)-like lesions (n=5, 31.25%); 4) Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES)-like lesions (n=1, 6.25%). NMO patients with EBLs had higher rates of encephalopathy symptoms (37.5% vs. 5.6%, p = 0.004), homonymous hemianopia (18.8% vs. 0%, p = 0.011) and AQP4 seropositivity (100% vs. 69.8%, p = 0.008) than NMO patients without EBLs (NEBLs). Immunomodulating changes (including the levels of C3, C4, ESR and CRP) were significantly higher in patients with EBLs than those without EBLs. The relapse times in EBLs during the follow-up period were more frequent than those happened in NEBLs (1.88 ± 0.30 vs. 1.23 ± 0.14, p = 0.04). The EDSS scores in EBLs patients were also much higher than those in NEBLs throughout all the whole visits of follow-up.

Conclusions

The presence of EBLs in NMO may indicate a higher diseases activity and portend a worse prognosis. CRP is a useful marker in monitoring diseases activity. Systemic inflammation may be crucial to the formation of EBLs in NMO.

Keywords:
Aquaporin-4; Complement; C-reactive Protein; Erythrocyte sedimentation rate; Extensive brain lesions; Magnetic resonance imaging; Neuromyelitis optica