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OBJECTIVES: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) constitutes a powerful outcome measure in neuromuscular disorders, yet there is a broad diversity of approaches in data acquisition and analysis. Since each neuromuscular disease presents a specific pattern of muscle involvement, the recommended analysis is assumed to be the muscle-by-muscle approach. We, therefore, performed a comparative analysis of different segmentation approaches, including global muscle segmentation, to determine the best strategy for evaluating disease progression. METHODS: In 102 patients (21 immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy/IMNM, 21 inclusion body myositis/IBM, 10 GNE myopathy/GNEM, 19 Duchenne muscular dystrophy/DMD, 12 dysferlinopathy/DYSF, 7 limb-girdle muscular dystrophy/LGMD2I, 7 Pompe disease, 5 spinal muscular atrophy/SMA), two MRI scans were obtained at a 1-year interval in thighs and lower legs. Regions of interest (ROIs) were drawn in individual muscles, muscle groups, and the global muscle segment. Standardized response means (SRMs) were determined to assess sensitivity to change in fat fraction (ΔFat%) in individual muscles, muscle groups, weighted combinations of muscles and muscle groups, and in the global muscle segment. RESULTS: Global muscle segmentation gave high SRMs for ΔFat% in thigh and lower leg for IMNM, DYSF, LGMD2I, DMD, SMA, and Pompe disease, and only in lower leg for GNEM and thigh for IBM. CONCLUSIONS: Global muscle segment Fat% showed to be sensitive to change in most investigated neuromuscular disorders. As compared to individual muscle drawing, it is a faster and an easier approach to assess disease progression. The use of individual muscle ROIs, however, is still of interest for exploring selective muscle involvement. KEY POINTS: • MRI-based evaluation of fatty replacement in muscles is used as an outcome measure in the assessment of 1-year disease progression in 8 different neuromuscular diseases. • Different segmentation approaches, including global muscle segmentation, were evaluated for determining 1-year fat fraction changes in lower limb skeletal muscles. • Global muscle segment fat fraction has shown to be sensitive to change in lower leg and thigh in most of the investigated neuromuscular diseases.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Radiol

Publication Date



Adipose tissue, Magnetic resonance imaging, Neuromuscular diseases, Outcome measures, Skeletal muscle