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Signal intensity, clinical activity and cross-sectional areas on MRI scans in thyroid disease

      The signal intensity from inflamed extra-ocular muscles on short tau inversion recovery (STIR)-sequence magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is known to correlate with clinical scores of thyroid eye disease (TED) severity. Twenty-one patients who had undergone repeated MRI scanning for TED were studied retrospectively. Signal intensity of extra-ocular muscles (from STIR-sequence MRI) and cross-sectional area (from STIR and T1 MRI) were correlated with Mounts' clinical activity score (CAS). The area of highest signal intensity within the most inflamed extra-ocular muscle, and the average cross-sectional signal intensity of the most inflamed extra-ocular muscle reliably correlated with CAS, and this was maintained as disease activity changed over time. In contrast, isolated measures of muscle cross-sectional area did not correlate with CAS. The extra-ocular muscle cross-sectional area calculated from STIR-sequence MR images was greater than that measured on T1 images. This suggests that muscle area from STIR-sequence MRI may also detect peri-muscular inflammation. We conclude that the peak signal intensity from the most inflamed extra-ocular muscle remains the most reliable correlate of clinical disease activity obtained from these images. STIR-sequence MRI scans provide a number of useful measures of disease activity in TED.
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