“Acute clinical relapses are a defining feature of MS with highly variable symptoms and potentially disabling effects,” said first author, an MS certified nurse at Loyola University Chicago in Maywood, Ill., and coauthors. “Although clinicians have several management options for MS relapses, including several therapeutic interventions or observation, these options vary in terms of clinical evidence of efficacy, safety, cost, and tolerability. No consensus statements currently exist to help clinicians approach patients with acute MS relapse.”
To offer an algorithm for the management of MS relapses based on evidence and clinical experience, a work group of MS clinicians reviewed published literature on MS relapses and shared their clinical experiences managing relapses. They sought to develop a standardized and optimized approach to management.
The group reached consensus on an iterative management algorithm that consists of evaluation of symptoms to distinguish an MS relapse from a; treatment, if necessary; and assessment of treatment response.
“Timely and careful evaluation of new symptoms in patients with MS is paramount, and distinguishing an MS relapse from a pseudorelapse is essential,” the authors said. “This evaluation is primarily clinical, and imaging findings may not be necessary for confirmation.”
Corticosteroid therapy is the mainstay of MS relapse management. For patients who cannot tolerate corticosteroids or in whom corticosteroids have been ineffective, clinicians may consider adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). In patients with fulminant demyelination, plasma exchange therapy may be considered. In mild cases, observation may be reasonable, the authors said.
The group recommends that, between 3 and 5 weeks after the initial evaluation, a clinical reassessment using a tool such as theshould be undertaken.
If a patient’s response to treatment has been suboptimal – that is, symptoms have worsened despite treatment or there has been a lack of functional recovery – “reevaluation of the relapse and treatment with an alternative option should be considered,” they said.
The work group did not receive funding. The authors disclosed financial ties with various pharmaceutical companies.