MRIs Catch Multiple Sclerosis Early

Scan gives doctors head start on treatment, new guidelines say

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TUESDAY, Sept. 9, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to help diagnose multiple sclerosis at an earlier stage, says a new guideline developed by the American Academy of Neurology.

The guideline is published in the Sept. 9 issue of Neurology.

Over the years, there's been debate about the point at which doctors can accurately diagnose multiple sclerosis (MS).

"Before, the criteria used to diagnosis people required neurologists to show that disease activity had occurred in the brain over time," guideline author Dr. Elliot Frohman, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, says in a news release.

"People would have to wait for a diagnosis. Now that we have evidence showing that early treatment can reduce the entire course of the disease, we really needed to ask the question about how early the diagnosis can be made," Frohman says.

In developing the new guideline, he and his colleagues evaluated all the scientific studies on the subject. Their review of the literature revealed that in many cases, the findings on a single MRI of the brain and spinal cord can be a strong indicator of whether a person will develop MS in the future.

This new guideline applies to cases where a young to middle-aged adult has a single occurrence of an MS sign or symptom and all other possible diagnoses have been ruled out.

The guideline outlines the number and type of MS-related brain and spinal lesions that are a strong predictor of future development of clinically definite MS. For example, a person with at least three lesions in the brain's white matter area has greater than 80 percent likelihood of developing MS within the next three to 10 years.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about multiple sclerosis.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, Sept. 8, 2003

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