Purpose of review
Ultra-high field 7 T MRI has multiple applications for the in vivo characterization of the heterogeneous aspects underlying multiple sclerosis including the identification of cortical lesions, characterization of the different types of white matter plaques, evaluation of structures difficult to assess with conventional MRI (thalamus, cerebellum, spinal cord, meninges).
The sensitivity of cortical lesion detection at 7 T is twice than at lower field MRI, especially for subpial lesions, the most common cortical lesion type in multiple sclerosis. Cortical lesion load accrual is independent of that in the white matter and predicts disability progression.
Seven Tesla MRI provides details on tissue microstructure that can be used to improve white matter lesion characterization. These include the presence of a central vein, whose identification can be used to improve multiple sclerosis diagnosis, or the appearance of an iron-rich paramagnetic rim on susceptibility-weighted images, which corresponds to iron-rich microglia at the periphery of slow expanding lesions. Improvements in cerebellar and spinal cord tissue delineation and lesion characterization have also been demonstrated.
Imaging at 7 T allows assessing more comprehensively the complementary pathophysiological aspects of multiple sclerosis, opening up novel perspectives for clinical and therapeutics evaluation.