Degree of microstructural changes within T1-SE versus T1-GE hypointense lesions in multiple sclerosis: relevance for the definition of “black holes”

Caterina Lapucci, Nicola Romano, Simona Schiavi, Laura Saitta, Antonio Uccelli, Giacomo Boffa, Matteo Pardini, Alessio Signori, Lucio Castellan, Matilde Inglese, Luca Roccatagliata

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Objectives: To retrospectively evaluate the different performances of T1-SE and T1-GE sequences in detecting hypointense lesions in multiple sclerosis (MS), to quantify the degree of microstructural damage within lesions and to correlate them with patient clinical status. Methods: Sixty clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) and MS patients underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on 1.5-T and 3-T scanners. We identified T2 fluid-attenuated inversion recovery hyperintense lesions with no hypointense signal on T1-SE/T1-GE (a), hypointense lesions only on T1-GE (b), and hypointense lesions on both T1-SE and T1-GE sequences (c). We compared mean lesion number (LN) and volume (LV) identified on T1-SE and T1-GE sequences, correlating them with Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS); fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) values inside each lesion type were extracted and normal-appearing white matter (NAWM). Results: Thirty-five patients were female. Mean age was 39.2 (± 7.8); median EDSS was 3 (± 2). There were 23 CIS, 21 relapsing–remitting (RR), and 16 progressive MS. T1-GE and T1-SE LN and LV were significantly different (p < 0.001), both correlating with EDSS. Both FA and MD metrics resulted significantly different among the three lesion groups and NAWM (p < 0.001). FA and MD values extracted from (b) and (c) showed statistically significant differences (p < 0.001), while for (a) and (b), the differences were not significant (p = 0.31 for FA and p = 0.62 for MD). Conclusion: T1-SE hypointense lesions demonstrated a more pronounced degree of microstructural damage. T1-weighted sequence type must be more carefully evaluated in clinical and research settings. Key Points: • T1-weighted spin-echo (T1-SE) images detect chronic hypointense lesions (so called black holes) associated with more severe microstructural changes. • In the last years, three-dimensional (3D) T1-weighted gradient-echo (T1-GE) sequences are often utilized in lieu of T1-SE acquisition, more so at 3 T or higher fields. • T1-weighted sequence type must be more carefully evaluated in clinical and research settings in the definition of “black holes” in MS, in order to avoid the overestimation of the effective severe tissue damage.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Radiology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020



  • Hypointense lesions
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Microstructural damage
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • T1-weighted images

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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