A three-year study of brain atrophy after autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in rapidly evolving secondary progressive multiple sclerosis
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: In multiple sclerosis (MS), autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) induces a profound suppression of clinical activity and MR imaging-detectable inflammation, but it may be associated with a rapid brain volume loss in the months subsequent to treatment. The aim of this study was to assess how AHSCT affects medium-term evolution of brain atrophy in MS. MATERIALS AND METHODS: MR imaging scans of the brain from 14 patients with rapidly evolving secondary-progressive MS obtained 3 months before and every year after AHSCT for 3 years were analyzed. Baseline normalized brain volumes and longitudinal percentage of brain volume changes (PBVCs) were assessed using the Structural Image Evaluation of Normalized Atrophy software. RESULTS: The median decrease of brain volume was 1.92% over the first year after AHSCT and then declined to 1.35% at the second year and to 0.69% at the third year. The number of enhancing lesions seen on the pretreatment scans was significantly correlated with the PBVCs between baseline and month 12 (r = -0.62; P = .02); no correlation was found with the PBVCs measured over the second and third years. CONCLUSIONS: After AHSCT, the rate of brain tissue loss in patients with MS declines dramatically after the first 2 years. The initial rapid development of brain atrophy may be a late consequence of the pretransplant disease activity and/or a transient result of the intense immunoablative conditioning procedure.