MRI shows thickening and altered diffusion in the median and ulnar nerves in multifocal motor neuropathy

Haakma, Wieke, Jongbloed, Bas A., Froeling, Martijn, Goedee, H. Stephan, Bos, Clemens, Leemans, Alexander, van Den Berg, Leonard H., Hendrikse, Jeroen, van der Pol, W. Ludo


European Radiology 27 (5), p. 2216–2224


Objectives: To study disease mechanisms in multifocal motor neuropathy (MMN) with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of the median and ulnar nerves. Methods: We enrolled ten MMN patients, ten patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and ten healthy controls (HCs). Patients underwent MRI (in a prone position) and nerve conduction studies. DTI and fat-suppressed T2-weighted scans of the forearms were performed on a 3.0T MRI scanner. Fibre tractography of the median and ulnar nerves was performed to extract diffusion parameters: fractional anisotropy (FA), mean (MD), axial (AD) and radial (RD) diffusivity. Cross-sectional areas (CSA) were measured on T2-weighted scans. Results: Forty-five out of 60 arms were included in the analysis. AD was significantly lower in MMN patients (2.20 ± 0.12 × 10-3 mm2/s) compared to ALS patients (2.31 ± 0.17 × 10-3 mm2/s; p <0.05) and HCs (2.31± 0.17 × 10-3 mm2/s; p <0.05). Segmental analysis showed significant restriction of AD, RD and MD (p <0.005) in the proximal third of the nerves. CSA was significantly larger in MMN patients compared to ALS patients and HCs (p <0.01). Conclusions: Thickening of nerves is compatible with changes in the myelin sheath structure, whereas lowered AD values suggest axonal dysfunction. These findings suggest that myelin and axons are diffusely involved in MMN pathogenesis. Key Points: • Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging provides quantitative information about multifocal motor neuropathy (MMN).• Diffusion tensor imaging allows non-invasive evaluation of the forearm nerves in MMN.• Nerve thickening and lowered diffusion parameters suggests myelin and axonal changes.• This study can help to provide insight into pathological mechanisms of MMN.