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Background: To evaluate whether oligoclonal bands (OB) add information to MRI in predicting both a second attack and development of disability in patients with clinically isolated syndromes (CIS).

Methods: From 1995 to 2006, 572 patients with CIS were included in a prospective study. Patients underwent brain MRI and determination of OB within 3 months of first attack. The number and location of lesions and presence of OB were studied. We analyzed time to second attack and to Expanded Disability Status Scale 3.0 according to number of Barkhof criteria (BC) and the presence or absence of OB.

Results: We studied 415 (73%) patients with CIS with both baseline MRI and determination of OB. Patients were followed for a mean of 50 months (SD 31). Compared to the reference group with 0 BC at baseline MRI, patients with one to two BC showed a hazard ratio (HR) for conversion to CDMS of 3.8 (2.0 to 7.2) and patients with three to four BC of 8.9 (4.8 to 16.4). Of the total cohort, OB were positive in 61% of the patients. However, broken down by MRI group, OB were positive in 31% of those with no BC; 69% of those with one to two BC; and 85% of those with three or four BC. The presence of OB increased the risk of a second relapse (HR 1.7; 1.1 to -2.7) independently of baseline MRI but did not modify the development of disability.

Conclusions: Presence of oligoclonal bands doubles the risk for having a second attack, independently of MRI, but does not seem to influence the development of disability.

GLOSSARY: BC = Barkhof criteria; CDMS = clinically definite multiple sclerosis; CIS = clinically isolated syndromes; EDSS = Expanded Disability Status Scale; HR = hazard ratio; MS = multiple sclerosis; OB = oligoclonal bands.

(C)2008 American Academy of Neurology