J Neurol Sci 2009 Nov 25;286(1-2):28-30. Epub 2009 Aug 25.
Department of Neurology, Medical University of Graz, Auenbruggerplatz 22, A-8036 Graz, Austria.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides objective and detailed insights into morphologic changes of the central nervous system associated with multiple sclerosis (MS). Therefore, it also appears an ideal tool to investigate the possible impact of gender on MS course and severity. Only more recently some studies have specifically addressed this issue and we, therefore, reviewed the literature for investigations which analysed the impact of various factors including gender on MS-related morphologic changes and their evolution. Treatment trials were excluded and the available data refer mainly to relapsing MS with or without secondary progression. A few mostly smaller studies suggest a higher frequency of contrast-enhancing lesions in women. This was not seen in the analysis of a large and pooled dataset of untreated MS patients of the Sylvia Lawry Centre for MS Research. Other large cross-sectional and longitudinal studies found no effects of gender on T2 or T1 lesion burden or on brain atrophy. Findings between male and female MS patients also did not differ when including magnetisation transfer ratio and diffusion tensor imaging for morphologic information. Our review thus indicates no independent gender differences on brain MRI beyond demographic and clinical variables such as age, duration of disease and grade of disability.