Conference Coverage

Evaluations for possible MS often turn up one of its many mimics



– Of 95 patients referred to two multiple sclerosis (MS) centers for a possible diagnosis of MS, 74% did not have MS, according to a study presented at ACTRIMS Forum 2019. A majority had clinical syndromes or imaging findings that are atypical for MS, which “underscores the importance of familiarity with typical MS clinical and imaging findings in avoiding misdiagnosis,” said Marwa Kaisey, MD, and her research colleagues. Dr. Kaisey is a neurologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.


Physicians often refer patients to academic MS centers to determine whether patients have MS or one of its many mimics. To study the characteristics and final diagnoses of patients referred to MS centers for evaluation of possible MS, the investigators reviewed electronic medical records and MRI from all new patient evaluations at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of California, Los Angeles MS clinics between July 2016 and June 2017. The researchers excluded patients referred with a previously established diagnosis of MS.

There were 366 new patients evaluated, including 236 patients with previously established MS diagnoses and 35 patients whose evaluations were not related to MS. Of the 95 patients referred for a question of MS diagnosis, 60% had clinical syndromes that were atypical for MS, 22% had normal neurologic exams, and a third had pain or sensory changes that were not localizable to the CNS.

Sixty-seven percent had MRI that was atypical for MS, and nearly half of the patients without MS had nonspecific MRI changes. “Often, these MRI changes alone prompted referral for an MS evaluation,” Dr. Kaisey and colleagues reported. “This suggests that novel, specific imaging tools may increase diagnostic confidence in the clinical setting.”

In all, the referred patients received 28 diagnoses other than MS, most commonly migraine (10 patients), anxiety or conversion disorder (9), postinfectious or idiopathic transverse myelitis (8), compression myelopathy or spondylopathy (8), and peripheral neuropathy or radiculopathy (7).

The researchers did not have any relevant disclosures.

SOURCE: Kaisey M et al. ACTRIMS Forum 2019, Abstract 90.

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