Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions typically form around a central vein that can be visualized with FLAIR* MRI, creating the central vein sign (CVS) which may reflect lesion pathophysiology. Herein we used gradient echo plural contrast imaging (GEPCI) MRI to simultaneously visualize CVS and measure tissue damage in MS lesions. We examined CVS in relation to tissue integrity in white matter (WM) lesions and among MS subtypes. Objective: We aimed to determine if CVS positive lesions were specific to MS subtype, if CVS can be detected consistently among readers using the GEPCI method, and if there were differences in tissue damage in lesions with vs without CVS. Subjects and Methods: Thirty relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) subjects and 38 primary and secondary progressive MS (PMS) subjects were scanned with GEPCI protocol at 3T. GEPCI T2*-SWI images were generated to visualize CVS. Two investigators independently evaluated WM lesions for CVS and measured lesion volumes. To estimate tissue damage severity, total lesion volume, and mean lesion volume, R2t*-based tissue damage score (TDS) of individual lesions and tissue damage load (TDL) were measured for CVS+, CVS-, and confluent lesions. Spearman correlations were made between MRI and clinical data. One-way ANCOVA with age and sex as covariates was used to compare measurements of CVS+ vs CVS- lesions in each individual. Results: 398 of 548 lesions meeting inclusion criteria showed CVS. Most patients had ≥40% CVS+ lesions. CVS+ lesions were present in similar proportion among MS subtypes. Interobserver agreement was high for CVS detection. CVS+ and confluent lesions had higher average and total volumes vs CVS- lesions. CVS+ and confluent lesions had more tissue damage than CVS- lesions based on TDL and mean TDS. Conclusion: CVS occurred in RRMS and PMS in similar proportions. CVS+ lesions had greater tissue damage and larger size than CVS- lesions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Central Nervous System Disease
StatePublished - Mar 28 2022


  • central vein sign
  • gradient echo plural contrast imaging
  • progressive MS
  • relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis


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