Although multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune-related disorder, pharmaceutical interventions targeting the immune system do not stop or reverse disability progression; the major challenge for this condition. Studies show that disability progression in MS is associated with vascular comorbidity and brain volume loss, indicating that a multi-targeted approach is required to prevent debilitation. The aim of the present study was to examine the associations between vascular ultrasound, disability, biochemistry and lifestyle data in people with MS (pwMS).
Extracranial vascular ultrasound was performed on 51 pwMS and 25 age-matched controls. Sonographic interrogation determined carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) and abnormal blood flow patterns. Disability was assessed using the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). Biochemical and lifestyle data were obtained for all participants.
The EDSS had a highly significant positive association with the cIMT of the right (r = 0.63; p = 0.001) and left (r = 0.49; p = 0.001) common carotid arteries and negative associations with the peak systolic blood flow velocity of the right vertebral artery (r = -0.42; p = 0.01) as well as end-diastolic velocity of the left internal carotid artery (r = -0.47; p = 0.01). These associations were significantly influenced by biochemical and lifestyle factors. Both cIMT and age showed significant associations with the EDSS. When cIMT was adjusted for age in a regression analysis, the association between the EDSS and the cIMT remained significant (p < 0.01), while the age association was reduced to being significant only at 10% (p = 0.06). There was no association between the use of MS medication and the EDSS (p = 0.56).
PwMS who had increased cIMT, a surrogate marker for atherosclerosis, and reduced carotid artery blood flow velocities were at risk for greater disability over and above the effect of aging. These findings provide important information for disease management and disability prevention in pwMS. Modification of diet and lifestyle may promote the unhindered flow of essential nutritional factors into the brain in pwMS.

Copyright © 2022. Published by Elsevier Inc.