The contemporary spectrum of multiple sclerosis misdiagnosis: A multicenter study

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Abstract

Objective:

To characterize patients misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Methods:

Neurologists at 4 academic MS centers submitted data on patients determined to have been misdiagnosed with MS.

Results:

Of 110 misdiagnosed patients, 51 (46%) were classified as “definite” and 59 (54%) “probable” misdiagnoses according to study definitions. Alternate diagnoses included migraine alone or in combination with other diagnoses 24 (22%), fibromyalgia 16 (15%), nonspecific or nonlocalizing neurologic symptoms with abnormal MRI 13 (12%), conversion or psychogenic disorders 12 (11%), and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder 7 (6%). Duration of misdiagnosis was 10 years or longer in 36 (33%) and an earlier opportunity to make a correct diagnosis was identified for 79 patients (72%). Seventy-seven (70%) received disease-modifying therapy and 34 (31%) experienced unnecessary morbidity because of misdiagnosis. Four (4%) participated in a research study of an MS therapy. Leading factors contributing to misdiagnosis were consideration of symptoms atypical for demyelinating disease, lack of corroborative objective evidence of a CNS lesion as satisfying criteria for MS attacks, and overreliance on MRI abnormalities in patients with nonspecific neurologic symptoms.

Conclusions:

Misdiagnosis of MS leads to unnecessary and potentially harmful risks to patients. Misinterpretation and misapplication of MS clinical and radiographic diagnostic criteria are important contemporary contributors to misdiagnosis.

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