Diagnosing MS - National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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Diagnosing MS

Diagnostic criteria, diagnostic algorithm and other tools to facilitate diagnosis

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Although more tools are available to help today’s clinician make an accurate MS diagnosis, the requirements for diagnosing this complex disease are the same as they have been since Jean-Martin Charcot first described MS in the early 19th century:

The diagnosis of MS requires:

An understanding of these basic requirements is essential in order to reduce the risk of mis-diagnosing a person with MS and improperly treating whatever illness or condition the person actually has. The literature suggests that among patients referred to MS treatment centers with a possible diagnosis of MS, fewer than 50 percent are found to have clinical or paraclinical findings caused by MS [Kelly et al, 2012; Camosino et al., 2005]. Although magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has greatly enhanced the diagnostic process since the first diagnostic criteria were introduced by Schumacher in 1965, it has also contributed significantly to the mis-diagnosis of MS (Ratchford & Calabresi, 2008).

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