Diagnosis: MS: New Diagnostic Criteria

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has become a standard tool for diagnosing MS.
Reprinted from PN October 2001
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For the first time in 20 years, the criteria used to diagnose multiple sclerosis (MS) have been updated to reflect the advances in clinical knowledge and the breakthroughs afforded by MRI in patient diagnosis.

An international panel of neurologists, organized by the U.S. National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) with support of the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation, met in summer 2000 in London to review existing criteria and, if appropriate, establish revised diagnostic criteria. The panel released its results this past spring.

The new criteria are vital for people at risk for MS and their physicians because they outline procedures to help make a secure MS diagnosis in the face of widely variable clinical symptoms that could be characteristic of a number of inflammatory, demyelinating diseases, of which MS is one. The international panel additionally believed it was important to formally integrate MRIs into the new diagnostic criteria, as these devices have become a standard tool to aid diagnosis and in therapeutic trials of new drugs over the last 15 years.

The new guidelines, which were published online in April 2001 in Annals of Neurology and in print form in the journal in July 2001, provide a checklist of clinical and paraclinical tests for doctors, to assist them in making more timely and accurate diagnoses.

An integrated diagnostic procedure is essential in MS because no single test can confirm the disease, which targets the immune and central nervous systems. Since MS symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, it is often difficult to diagnose and involves eliminating other diseases that might be responsible for the symptoms.

The panel stressed that much of the traditional diagnostic criteria have been retained in this revision and that diagnosing MS still remains a partly subjective process. The final call is best made by a neurologist who is familiar with the disease, supported by the best available tools and technologies that can contribute to an MS diagnosis.

The above information was provided by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 733 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017-3288. (800) FIGHT MS / (212) 986-3240/ /


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Diagnosis: MS: New Diagnostic Criteria


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