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MRI characteristics are predictive for CDMS in monofocal, but not in multifocal patients with a clinically isolated syndrome

Jessica M Nielsen1*, Christoph Pohl2, Chris H Polman1, Frederik Barkhof3, Mark S Freedman4, Gilles Edan5, David H Miller6, Lars Bauer2, Rupert Sandbrink2, Ludwig Kappos7 and Bernard MJ Uitdehaag18

Author Affiliations

1 MS Center, Department of Neurology, VU Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

2 Bayer Schering AG, Berlin, Germany

3 Department of Radiology, VU medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

4 Department of Neurology, The Ottawa Hospital, Ontario, Canada

5 Department of Neurology, Hopital Pontchaillou, Rennes, France

6 Department of Radiology, Queen square hospital, London, UK

7 Department of Neurology, Kantonsspital, Basel, Switzerland

8 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VU Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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BMC Neurology 2009, 9:19  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-9-19

Published: 20 May 2009



To diagnose multiple sclerosis (MS), evidence for dissemination in space and time is required. There is no clear definition on how symptoms and signs of a patient indicate clinical dissemination in space. To provide a uniform approach on this subject, a clinical classification system was described recently differentiating patients with mono- and multifocal clinical presentation. Here we assess the predictive value of clinically defined dissemination in space at first presentation for time to clinically definite MS (CDMS).


Four hundred and sixty-eight patients with a first episode suggestive of MS were classified as clinically mono- or multifocal by two neurologists blinded to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) results. These patients were part of the BENEFIT study in which 292 patients were randomized to interferon beta-1b (IFNB-1b) and 176 to placebo. By using Kaplan-Meier statistics the risk for CDMS was studied in mono- and multifocal patients of the placebo group, both with and without taking into account MRI measures of potential prognostic relevance.


Time to CDMS was similar in monofocal and multifocal patients. In monofocal patients, the risk for CDMS over 2 years was significantly higher when ≥ 9 T2 lesions or at least one Gd-enhancing lesion were present at the first event or 3 or 6 months after the first event. In patients with multifocal presentation, these MRI measures had no significant added value in predicting time to CDMS.


These data indicate that a carefully performed neurological assessment of symptoms and signs, combined with lesions on MRI, is important for defining the risk of conversion to CDMS.

Trial Registration

The Benefit trial has been registered under NCT00185211 webcite