Somatosensory evoked potentials and magnetic resonance imaging of the central nervous system in early multiple sclerosis

Alexander Wuschek, Matthias Bussas, Malek El Husseini, Laura Harabacz, Viktor Pineker, Viola Pongratz, Achim Berthele, Isabelle Riederer, Claus Zimmer, Bernhard Hemmer, Jan S. Kirschke, Mark Mühlau

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Background: Somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEP) are still broadly used, although not explicitly recommended, for the diagnostic work-up of suspected multiple sclerosis (MS). Objective: To relate disability, SSEP, and lesions on T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in patients with early MS. Methods: In this monocentric retrospective study, we analyzed a cohort of patients with relapsing–remitting MS or clinically isolated syndrome, with a maximum disease duration of two years, as well as with available data on the score at the expanded disability status scale (EDSS), on SSEP, on whole spinal cord (SC) MRI, and on brain MRI. Results: Complete data of 161 patients were available. Tibial nerve SSEP (tSSEP) were less frequently abnormal than SC MRI (22% vs. 68%, p < 0.001). However, higher EDSS scores were significantly associated with abnormal tSSEP (median, 2.0 vs. 1.0; p = 0.001) but not with abnormal SC MRI (i.e., at least one lesion; median, 1.5 vs. 1.5; p = 0.7). Of the 35 patients with abnormal tSSEP, 32 had lesions on SC MRI, and 2 had corresponding lesions on brain MRI. Conclusion: Compared to tSSEP, SC MRI is the more sensitive diagnostic biomarker regarding SC involvement. In early MS, lesions as detectable by T2-weighted MRI are the main driver of abnormal tSSEP. However, tSSEP were more closely associated with disability, which is compatible with a potential role of tSSEP as prognostic biomarker in complementation of MRI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)824-830
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Evoked potentials
  • MRI
  • Multiple sclerosis


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