International Journal of Current Research and Review
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IJCRR - 12(5), March, 2020

Pages: 06-12

Date of Publication: 07-Mar-2020

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Iron Quantification in Deep Subcortical Nuclei and its Correlation with Extracranial Venous System in Multiple Sclerosis and Controls

Author: Sheikh Hilal Ahmad, C. S. Agrawal, Seema Sud, Manish Mahajan

Category: Healthcare

Abstract:Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an acquired demyelinating disease of the central nervous system presumed to be of autoimmune nature. This MRI based study was done to see iron deposition in deep subcortical nuclei and look for any abnormalities in extracranial venous drainage system and to look for any correlation with clinical parameters .
Material and Methods: This case control study was done in a single large north Indian institute and had two groups of 25 cases each. One group being of consecutive MS patients and another of other neurological disease (OND). The two groups were age and sex matched. Both the groups underwent Magnetic Resonance Venography (MRV) of neck vessels and azygous system and cross sectional areas of internal jugular veins, azygous veins were measured. Iron stores in deep grey matter nuclei were quantified with Susceptibility weighted Imaging (SWI) studies.
Results: The predefined cross sectional areas of internal jugular veins ( IJV) and azygous veins were comparable. On comparing the flows of right and left IJVs, there was a clear dominance of right side in both MS and OND groups. We found more iron in all the nuclei in MS group compared to OND group. But statistically significant difference between the two groups was seen in bilateral pulvinar thalami and red nuclei, right putamen, right caudate nucleus and left substantia nigra. The absence of any difference in anatomical parameters in two groups goes against any vascular hypothesis of iron deposition in deep subcortical nuclei. The iron deposition may be an epiphenomenon of underlying disease rather than having to do something with etiopathogenesis.

Keywords: Iron quantification, Deep subcortical nuclei, Venous abnormalities

Full Text:


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory, demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS) of unknown pathogenesis; it is considered to be of autoimmune nature.[1,2]  and continues to challenge investigators trying to understand the pathogenesis of the disease and prevent its progression. [3]

Importance of iron in multiple sclerosis has been recently studied and its significance in pathogenesis of disease has generated a lot of interest. Many  opposing theories have been put forth and this is shown by the  fact that on one side  chelating therapy was tried in one study to reduce iron deposition in brain  by Levine et al; the hypothesis being to decrease free radical damage induced by iron via Fenton reaction.[4] On the converse side  iron deficiency has been postulated to increase relapse rate  and even put forth as a reason for increased incidence of MS in females.[5,6] Having said that, increased iron deposition has been demonstrated in multiple sclerosis brain in many studies mostly in deep subcortical nuclei and around demyelinating plaques. Exact process of iron deposition is not known. The presence of iron was thought to be secondary to immune response causing local accumulation of iron by disrupting the blood brain barrier and by attracting iron-rich macrophages. [7] Impaired axonal clearance of iron has also been postulated. [8]

In the past decade a vascular theory for MS was proposed; with some similar insinuations made in 19th century.[9 ,10]  The theory put forth is that iron deposits in MS are a consequence of altered cerebral venous return and chronic insufficient venous drainage.[9,11] . It is shown diagrammatically Figure 1.
           Moreover it was postulated that venous  hypertension and local reflux in medial venous drainage system of brain (internal cerebral veins and vein of Galen) leads to deposition of iron in  thalamus and basal ganglia.[12] Furthermore   several studies have demonstrated a greater correlation between grey matter lesions with  fatigue and deficits in cognitive than with white matter  lesions, this has suggested  that measuring iron in grey matter might be of  clinical significance.[13]

The vascular theory put forth proposes structural venous abnormalities in extracranial draining veins viz; internal jugular and azygous veins in the form of stenosis and abnormal valves. This would lead to decreased flow from primary draining veins and reflux of venous blood getting transmitted to medial venous system in brain and opening of collateral channels in vertebral veins and lumbar veins. In fact pathological changes have been shown in jugular veins and absence of endothelium on defective valves shown by scanning electron microscope.[14] The venous abnormalities were looked via doppler studies initially and later on via percutaneous selective venography. MRI studies being non-invasive and with more interoperative reliability than Doppler were used to investigate this theory subsequently. However conflicting results were shown regarding both anatomical and flow dynamics in draining veins and furthermore correlation with clinical parameters of MS was not done in all. The lack of a clear explanation for iron deposition in deep subcortical nuclei has kept the vascular hypothesis in debate even though a randomised study was published to demolish the vascular hypothesis.[15]

In this context our study was conceptualised to look into iron deposition in brain in context of vascular hypothesis.

Material and methods

It is a case control observational study. It consisted of two groups one being multiple sclerosis patient group (diagnosed as per McDonald Criteria) and another was a control group consisting of patients having other neurological disease OND. First 25 sequential patients of those who gave consent were enrolled as a case in the MS group. The study was cleared by our hospital’s ethics committee.

Other neurological disease OND (Control Group): These included those patients who were suffering from other neurological disease OND and needed MRI plain and contrast for their basic disease; e.g. Headache, leucodystrophy, Dementias. Twenty five patients were enrolled as controls in this Other Neurological disease (OND) group.

Exclusion criteria

  • History of surgery in head, neck or  mediastinum .

  • Radiation to neck or chest.

  • Past history of cerebral venous thrombosis,

  • History of Transient global amnesia.

  • Thrombosis in veins of neck or any central venous catheter in the Internal Jugular Vein.

  •  Chronic Heart or  lung disease.

  • Budd–Chiari syndrome.

An  informed consent was taken from all  patients .A  detailed history was taken and thorough  physical examination was done. Type of MS, disease duration, relapse rate, Expanded Disability Scoring Scale (EDSS) score was noted.       

Non invasive evaluation for extracranial venous drainage in MS patient group as well as OND controls was done by MRI studies and this included, CEMRI Brain and spine, Contrast MRV of head, neck and azygous venous system (figure 2), Susceptibility weighted imaging of brain. The MRI studies were done on a 3T SEIMES VERIO machine and it is a left sided system.

         Susceptibility weighted imaging (SWI): For doing iron quantification we acquired the susceptibility weighted images SWI images. The SWI study was done as per the protocol keeping TR= 27, TE= 20, FOV 240, Slice thickness= 4mm, Distance factor= 20, FOV phase 81.3, FA flip angle= 150o and bandwidth BW=287hz/px.

In the post processing we quantified iron in sub cortical deep grey matter nuclei  viz., Caudate nucleus, Globus pallidus, putamen, red nucleus, pulvinar thalamus, red nucleus, substantia nigra. On the phase images of the MS and OND cases regions of interests (ROIs) were hand-drawn following the contour of nucleus. We used SPIN software for processing SWI phase images and it generated the number of pixels, mean, SD, maximum intensity and minimum intensity within the ROI.

For converting phase values to microgram iron we took 180 units (0.276 radians) of phase to be equivalent to 480 g Fe/g/cc tissue. And for calculating total iron content following formula was used.16

Iron content = - {(φSPU -2048) × 3.14× 480× pixel # × 3.23} / (2048× 0.276× 1000) μg/cc.

φSPU            =  mean phase

pixel #    = number of pixels

Anatomical details of draining veins: Measurement of the maximum and minimum cross sectional area (CSA) in both the internal jugular veins IJVs (right and left) in both the groups was done. Cross sectional area CSA at the bulb of internal jugular vein IJV i.e. just below its formation from the jugular sinus was also measured. This acts like a reference point as it is taken at a predetermined level in all the cases of MS or OND group. Stenosis in any IJV was defined as a CSA of less than 0.125cm2 at or above 3rd cervical vertebral level or a CSA of less than 25cm2 below 3rd cervical vertebral level.[16,17] Morphological measurements in azygous vein included measuring maximum CSA of the horizontal part of the azygous vein as it enters superior venecava. We also measured the minimum CSA of the vertical portion of the azygous vein.


Cohort demographics: The two groups were   similar in age and sex  distribution (Table  1). The mean of relapses in previous 2 years was 2.76(SD=1.535).The relapses in previous 2 years in the multiple sclerosis cohort were; minimum 1 and   maximum 8. Of the 25 patients, 22 were having Relapsing Remitting MS (RRMS) type of multiple sclerosis; while 3 patients were having  Secondary progressive MS (SPMS).

On comparing the total iron; which was calculated from mean phase, number of pixels i.e.  volume and as per equation discussed in material and methods ,in various deep subcortical nuclei between the two groups (figure 3) we found more iron in all the nuclei in MS group compared to OND group ( Table 2). statistically significant difference was seen in bilateral pulvinar thalami and red nuclei, right putamen, right caudate nucleus and left substantia nigra.

Various cross sectional areas (CSA) of IJV at maximum ,minimum and at IJV bulb were comparable  in cases and controls on both sides as described in (Table 3) P value was insignificant between two groups .similarly maximum and minimum cross sectional area (CSA) of the horizontal segment of azygous vein in MS cases and OND group were again comparable (Table 3 )

The number of cases having stenosis (by definition adopted by as discussed above) in Right IJV was 2 and 5 in MS and OND groups respectively. Similarly on left side 2 and 3 cases had stenosis in MS and OND group respectively (figure 4).


The anatomical parameters of draining veins in MS cases and OND controls were comparable .Similar results were shown in other studies as well. The presence of stenosis in IJV looks as normal variation in caliber of draining veins as they were present in comparable numbers in OND group as well (figure 3); we have used a definition for defining stenosis similar to most studies so as to make our results comparable. As we know well that veins have a considerable variation in their size, shape as compared to other anatomical structures in body and may depend on position of body respiratory cycle and hydration status. [18]Thus these so called “stenosis” seem to be normal anatomical variations rather than any pathological entities (figure 5). These observations go against the theory of CCSVI which proposes stenotic lesions as the basis of the etiopathogenesis of multiple sclerosis. As per CCSVI hypothesis we should have had lesser cross sectional areas and more stenosis in the MS group which we did not observe in our study.

Similar findings refuting the CCSVI hypothesis and showing no evidence of more IJV stenoses/narrowing in MS patients were observed by other authors.[19,20,21,22]

Iron quantification: we documented increased iron deposition in multiple sclerosis and we have quantified it as well. As has been demonstrated in other studies in multiple sclerosis, we found more iron in all the nuclei in MS group compared to OND group. statistically significant difference was seen in bilateral pulvinar thalami and red nuclei, right putamen, right caudate nucleus and left substantia nigra. Similarly iron deposition has been show in other studies.[23,24]

As regarding Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) we did not have CIS patients in our study. But there have been contradicting results in previous studies; while a study by khalil et al  revealed no iron deposition ;  other  studies showed increased iron  in CIS patients.[25,26,27] It has been shown in a previous study  that basal ganglia iron accumulation in MS occurs with advancing disease and is related to the extent of morphologic brain damage.[25] We could not find any correlation between total iron in the six deep grey matter nuclei on both sides with the various clinical parameters as EDSS, Disease duration ,Relapses in previous 2 years and whether stenosis was present or not. Lebel et al found significant correlations of disability with pulvinar iron deposition; marginally significant correlations were also observed in the thalamus and red nucleus. No significant correlations were observed with duration since index relapse.[28]

The apparent lack of any correlation is not clear. The MS patients in which we could get iron quantification was only 19 which is very small sample for such a correlation. Second we had only 3 MS cases having stenosis (one having bilateral and two having unilateral stenosis), hence getting any sort of correlation was not possible. Third our cohort of patients were having relatively less disease duration with median age being 4 years only and we had no CIS patients in our study. Though we need longitudinal studies ideally to look into such a correlation, but there might be a suggestion here that iron deposition in subcortical nuclei is more of a bystander phenomenon rather than something involved in pathogenesis of disease. As regarding reason for iron deposition in these deep subcortical nuclei we feel this could be because of  impaired axonal transport of iron because of axonal injury secondary to multiple sclerosis lesions.

Thus it is difficult to accept vascular theory for iron deposition .Its promoters argue that the pattern of iron deposition seen in the basal ganglia, thalamus and midbrain of most MS patients represents a backward iron accumulation and is consistent with the hypothesis of venous hypertension i.e. MS is a perivenular disease first and an inflammatory demyelinating disease second. But it is very difficult to accept that iron deposition is because of venous hypertension without first proving the basic step i.e. anatomical and physiological abnormalities of draining veins. The comparison between CIS and RRMS in another study discussed above showed significantly increased iron in RRMS and thus this iron deposition could very well be epiphenomenon of the underlying disease. [25]

Strength and limitations of our study

The strength of our study is that unlike other studies it is a case control study and has attempted to verify the CCSVI hypothesis critically. We have used a noninvasive MRI techniques to study the two groups and thus involved no risk whatsoever to the cases and controls unlike studies done involving conventional venography.

The limitations include that; we have not taken a healthy control group as our ethics committee did not allow for contrast MRI studies in healthy controls. The sample size in our study was not large and we could do iron quantification studies in 19 out of 25 patients only due to technical reasons. We have not taken any clinically isolated syndromes (CIS).

Conflict of interest:  Authors declare no conflict of interest.

Funding: Grant by research department of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. No specific directions or intervention what so ever were made by research department during or after the study.

Acknowledgements: We thank MR Medical Imaging Innovations, Hyderabad, for helping in iron quantification.

Conclusion: There was increased iron deposition in most of the deep subcortical grey matter nuclei in MS patients as compared to controls. This may be an epiphenomenon of underlying disease rather than having to do something with etiopathogenesis. The significance of deposition in subcortical deep grey matter needs to be studied further. We could not find evidence in support of vascular theory on doing non-invasive evaluation of MS patients and comparing with control group.  There was no significant correlation between clinical parameters of MS patients viz. Age, EDSS, Disease duration, Relapses in preceding two years  and anatomical measurements and stenosis.

Thus even though CCSVI is an interesting hypothesis but we could not find any evidence in its favour in our study. But on a positive site CCSVI theory has generated a lot of interest and research into studying venous hemodynamics, venous abnormalities and iron deposition as possible mechanisms of various disease processes in CNS.


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A Study by Gainneos PD et al. entitled "A Comparative Evaluation of the Levels of Salivary IgA in HIV Affected Children and the Children of the General Population within the Age Group of 9 – 12 Years – A Cross-Sectional Study" is awarded Best Article of Vol 13 issue 05 Special issue on Recent Advances in Dentistry for better Oral Health
A Study by Alkhansa Mahmoud et al. entitled "mRNA Expression of Somatostatin Receptors (1-5) in MCF7 and MDA-MB231 Breast Cancer Cells" is awarded Best Article of Vol 13 issue 06
A Study by Chen YY and Ghazali SRB entitled "Lifetime Trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder Symptoms and Early Adolescence Risk Factors for Poor Physical Health Outcome Among Malaysian Adolescents" is awarded Best Article of Vol 13 issue 04 Special issue on Current Updates in Plant Biology to Medicine to Healthcare Awareness in Malaysia
A Study by Kumari PM et al. entitled "Study to Evaluate the Adverse Drug Reactions in a Tertiary Care Teaching Hospital in Tamilnadu - A Cross-Sectional Study" is awarded Best Article for Vol 13 issue 05
A Study by Anu et al. entitled "Effectiveness of Cytological Scoring Systems for Evaluation of Breast Lesion Cytology with its Histopathological Correlation" is awarded Best Article of Vol 13 issue 04
A Study by Sharipov R. Kh. et al. entitled "Interaction of Correction of Lipid Peroxidation Disorders with Oxibral" is awarded Best Article of Vol 13 issue 03
A Study by Tarek Elwakil et al. entitled "Led Light Photobiomodulation Effect on Wound Healing Combined with Phenytoin in Mice Model" is awarded Best Article of Vol 13 issue 02
A Study by Mohita Ray et al. entitled "Accuracy of Intra-Operative Frozen Section Consultation of Gastrointestinal Biopsy Samples in Correlation with the Final Histopathological Diagnosis" is awarded Best Article for Vol 13 issue 01
A Study by Badritdinova MN et al. entitled "Peculiarities of a Pain in Patients with Ischemic Heart Disease in the Presence of Individual Combines of the Metabolic Syndrome" is awarded Best Article for Vol 12 issue 24
A Study by Sindhu Priya E S et al. entitled "Neuroprotective activity of Pyrazolone Derivatives Against Paraquat-induced Oxidative Stress and Locomotor Impairment in Drosophila melanogaster" is awarded Best Article for Vol 12 issue 23
A Study by Habiba Suhail et al. entitled "Effect of Majoon Murmakki in Dysmenorrhoea (Usre Tams): A Standard Controlled Clinical Study" is awarded Best Article for Vol 12 issue 22
A Study by Ghaffar UB et al. entitled "Correlation between Height and Foot Length in Saudi Population in Majmaah, Saudi Arabia" is awarded Best Article for Vol 12 issue 21
A Study by Siti Sarah Binti Maidin entitled "Sleep Well: Mobile Application to Address Sleeping Problems" is awarded Best Article for Vol 12 issue 20
A Study by Avijit Singh"Comparison of Post Operative Clinical Outcomes Between “Made in India” TTK Chitra Mechanical Heart Valve Versus St Jude Mechanical Heart Valve in Valve Replacement Surgery" is awarded Best Article for Vol 12 issue 19
A Study by Sonali Banerjee and Mary Mathews N. entitled "Exploring Quality of Life and Perceived Experiences Among Couples Undergoing Fertility Treatment in Western India: A Mixed Methodology" is awarded Best Article for Vol 12 issue 18
A Study by Jabbar Desai et al. entitled "Prevalence of Obstructive Airway Disease in Patients with Ischemic Heart Disease and Hypertension" is awarded Best Article for Vol 12 issue 17
A Study by Juna Byun et al. entitled "Study on Difference in Coronavirus-19 Related Anxiety between Face-to-face and Non-face-to-face Classes among University Students in South Korea" is awarded Best Article for Vol 12 issue 16
A Study by Sudha Ramachandra & Vinay Chavan entitled "Enhanced-Hybrid-Age Layered Population Structure (E-Hybrid-ALPS): A Genetic Algorithm with Adaptive Crossover for Molecular Docking Studies of Drug Discovery Process" is awarded Best article for Vol 12 issue 15
A Study by Varsha M. Shindhe et al. entitled "A Study on Effect of Smokeless Tobacco on Pulmonary Function Tests in Class IV Workers of USM-KLE (Universiti Sains Malaysia-Karnataka Lingayat Education Society) International Medical Programme, Belagavi" is awarded Best article of Vol 12 issue 14, July 2020
A study by Amruta Choudhary et al. entitled "Family Planning Knowledge, Attitude and Practice Among Women of Reproductive Age from Rural Area of Central India" is awarded Best Article for special issue "Modern Therapeutics Applications"
A study by Raunak Das entitled "Study of Cardiovascular Dysfunctions in Interstitial Lung Diseas epatients by Correlating the Levels of Serum NT PRO BNP and Microalbuminuria (Biomarkers of Cardiovascular Dysfunction) with Echocardiographic, Bronchoscopic and HighResolution Computed Tomography Findings of These ILD Patients" is awarded Best Article of Vol 12 issue 13 
A Study by Kannamani Ramasamy et al. entitled "COVID-19 Situation at Chennai City – Forecasting for the Better Pandemic Management" is awarded best article for  Vol 12 issue 12
A Study by Muhammet Lutfi SELCUK and Fatma entitled "Distinction of Gray and White Matter for Some Histological Staining Methods in New Zealand Rabbit's Brain" is awarded best article for  Vol 12 issue 11
A Study by Anamul Haq et al. entitled "Etiology of Abnormal Uterine Bleeding in Adolescents – Emphasis Upon Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome" is awarded best article for  Vol 12 issue 10
A Study by entitled "Estimation of Reference Interval of Serum Progesterone During Three Trimesters of Normal Pregnancy in a Tertiary Care Hospital of Kolkata" is awarded best article for  Vol 12 issue 09
A Study by Ilona Gracie De Souza & Pavan Kumar G. entitled "Effect of Releasing Myofascial Chain in Patients with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome - A Randomized Clinical Trial" is awarded best article for  Vol 12 issue 08
A Study by Virendra Atam et. al. entitled "Clinical Profile and Short - Term Mortality Predictors in Acute Stroke with Emphasis on Stress Hyperglycemia and THRIVE Score : An Observational Study" is awarded best article for  Vol 12 issue 07
A Study by K. Krupashree et. al. entitled "Protective Effects of Picrorhizakurroa Against Fumonisin B1 Induced Hepatotoxicity in Mice" is awarded best article for issue Vol 10 issue 20
A study by Mithun K.P. et al "Larvicidal Activity of Crude Solanum Nigrum Leaf and Berries Extract Against Dengue Vector-Aedesaegypti" is awarded Best Article for Vol 10 issue 14 of IJCRR
A study by Asha Menon "Women in Child Care and Early Education: Truly Nontraditional Work" is awarded Best Article for Vol 10 issue 13
A study by Deep J. M. "Prevalence of Molar-Incisor Hypomineralization in 7-13 Years Old Children of Biratnagar, Nepal: A Cross Sectional Study" is awarded Best Article for Vol 10 issue 11 of IJCRR
A review by Chitra et al to analyse relation between Obesity and Type 2 diabetes is awarded 'Best Article' for Vol 10 issue 10 by IJCRR. 
A study by Karanpreet et al "Pregnancy Induced Hypertension: A Study on Its Multisystem Involvement" is given Best Paper Award for Vol 10 issue 09

List of Awardees

A Study by Ese Anibor et al. "Evaluation of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders Among Delta State University Students in Abraka, Nigeria" from Vol 13 issue 16 received Emerging Researcher Award

A Study by Alkhansa Mahmoud et al. entitled "mRNA Expression of Somatostatin Receptors (1-5) in MCF7 and MDA-MB231 Breast Cancer Cells" from Vol 13 issue 06 received Emerging Researcher Award

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Disclaimer: International Journal of Current Research and Review (IJCRR) provides platform for researchers to publish and discuss their original research and review work. IJCRR can not be held responsible for views, opinions and written statements of researchers published in this journal.


International Journal of Current Research and Review (IJCRR) provides platform for researchers to publish and discuss their original research and review work. IJCRR can not be held responsible for views, opinions and written statements of researchers published in this journal


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