Understanding Your MRI


MRI pictures of your brain and spinal cord can help you have a fuller understanding of how MS affects you. The most important scans are T1 scans with contrast and T2/FLAIR scans.

T1 Scans with Contrast

MRI brain: T1 with contrast scan

Areas of new, active inflammation in the brain become white on T1 scans with contrast. The contrast that goes into your vein for the MRI seeps out of leaky blood vessels in the brain where there is active inflammation. The spots (called lesions) on the scan are areas of active inflammation.

Generally, the lesions remain bright for only 1-2 months. The pattern of T1 lesions with contrast changes from month to month. Fortunately, some treatments can prevent up to 90% of these lesions from forming.


T2/FLAIR images show the total amount of scar from MS from its onset. The pictures show both old and new inflammation.

T2/FLAIR lesions can directly account for some symptoms. For example, a brainstem lesion can cause room spinning sensations and balance problems. Cervical (neck) spinal cord T2/FLAIR lesions could cause tingling and numbness in the hands and legs.

Many of the lesions may not be causing obvious symptoms. However, continued development of new brain T2/FLAIR lesions could lead to new attacks and thinking problems such as short-term memory loss or trouble keeping track of multiple tasks at the same time. Several treatments can prevent 80% of new T2 lesions from developing in the brain.

MRI of the brain: T2/FLAIR scan

MRI of the cervical (neck) spinal cord: T2 scan