Interscanner variation in brain MRI lesion load measurements in MS: Implications for clinical trials

M. Filippi, J. H. Van Waesberghe, M. A. Horsfield, S. Bressi, C. Gasperini, T. A. Yousry, M. L. Gawne-Cain, S. P. Morrissey, M. A. Rocca, F. Barkhof, G. J Lycklama À Nijeholt, S. Bastianello, D. H. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We evaluated the effect of interscanner variation on brain MRI-measured lesion volumes and measurement reproducibility in MS. Twenty clinically definite MS patients were each scanned on two or three scanners (a total of 14 scanners were used). In addition, a formalin-fixed MS brain was studied on eight scanners from different manufacturers and with different field strengths. For the formalin-fixed MS brain, on each machine we obtained two scans with slice thicknesses of 5 and 3 min. Only 5-mm-thick slices were obtained from patients. The lesion volume present on each scan was evaluated three times by a single observer in random order, using a local thresholding technique. In two groups of eight patients scanned on machines with different field strengths, the mean lesion volumes present on scans obtained at 1.5 T were significantly higher than those measured on scans obtained with machines operating at 0.5 and 1.0 T (p <0.01). When a single observer repeatedly evaluated the same scan, a median intraobserver agreement of 98.7% (95% CI, 97.9 to 99.1) was achieved. However, when the observer evaluated the scans from different MRI scanners, the agreement (an interscanner agreement) fell to 91.1% (CI, 90.2 to 94.1). When only scanners operating at 1.5 T were considered, the median interscanner agreement was 96.7% (CI, 95 to 97.5). Also, for the formalin-fixed MS brain, the intraobserver agreements obtained with both slice thicknesses were significantly higher than the corresponding interscanner agreements. The interscanner agreement, but not the intraobserver agreement, obtained with a slice thickness of 3 mm was higher than that obtained with a slice thickness of 5 min. Our results indicate that lesion volume measurements in MS are influenced significantly by the use of different MR scanners and that a patient included in a serial study should be always scanned with the same MR machine using 3-mm thick slices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-377
Number of pages7
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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