Nearly 18% of new multiple sclerosis (MS) patients referred to two speciality clinics in Los Angeles, California, had been misdiagnosed with the disease, according to a recent study.
Most of them actually were affected by migraines, among other conditions, and had been taking MS medications unnecessarily for years, many of which have an associated risk of serious side effects to the brain.
The findings are in the study “Incidence of multiple sclerosis misdiagnosis in referrals to two academic centers,” published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.
Although misdiagnosis of MS is a reality, with all that implies for patient morbidity and healthcare costs, the actual frequency of such cases is unknown.
Researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology Center, in collaboration with researchers from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of Vermont, were interested in filling this knowledge gap.
To determine how many patients were misdiagnosed with MS, and identify what they might have in common, researchers reviewed 241 new referrals to two MS clinics — the Cedars-Sinai and UCLA — of patients who had been diagnosed with MS by other doctors.
After re-evaluation at the clinic, 17% of the patients at Cedars-Sinai and 19% at UCLA were determined to have been incorrectly diagnosed with MS.
Most of these patients then were diagnosed with migraine (16%), followed by radiologically isolated syndrome (9%) — a condition in which brain MRI findings resemble those of MS, but whose patients experience none of the symptoms characteristic of MS. There also were patients who had spondylopathy (a disorder of the vertebrae, 7%), and neuropathy (nerve damage, 7%).
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