Association of Elbow Flexor MRI Fat Fraction With Loss of Hand-to-Mouth Movement in Patients With Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Background and Objectives

To study the potential of quantitative MRI (qMRI) fat fraction (FF) as a biomarker in nonambulant patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), we assessed the additive predictive value of elbow flexor FF to age at loss of hand-to-mouth movement.


Nonambulant patients with DMD (age ≥8 years) were included. Four-point Dixon MRI scans of the right upper arm were performed at baseline and at the 12-, 18-, or 24-month follow-up. Elbow flexor FFs were determined from 5 central slices. Loss of hand-to-mouth movement was determined at study visits and by phone calls every 4 months. FFs were fitted to a sigmoidal curve by use of a mixed model with random slope to predict individual trajectories. The added predictive value of elbow flexor FF to age at loss of hand-to-mouth movement was calculated from a Cox model with the predicted FF as a time-varying covariate, yielding a hazard ratio.


Forty-eight MRIs of 20 patients with DMD were included. The hazard ratio of a percent-point increase in elbow flexor FF for the time to loss of hand-to-mouth movement was 1.12 (95% confidence interval 1.04–1.21; p = 0.002). This corresponded to a 3.13-fold increase in the instantaneous risk of loss of hand-to-mouth movement in patients with a 10–percent points higher elbow flexor FF at any age.


In this prospective study, elbow flexor FF predicted loss of hand-to-mouth movement independently of age. qMRI-measured elbow flexor FF can be used as a surrogate endpoint or stratification tool for clinical trials in nonambulant patients with DMD.

Classification of Evidence

This study provides Class II evidence that qMRI FF of elbow flexor muscles in patients with DMD predicts loss of hand-to-mouth movement independently of age.

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