The contemporary spectrum of multiple sclerosis misdiagnosis

Andrew J. Solomon, Dennis N. Bourdette, Anne H. Cross, Angela Applebee, Philip M. Skidd, Diantha B. Howard, Rebecca I. Spain, Michelle H. Cameron, Edward Kim, Michele K. Mass, Vijayshree Yadav, Ruth H. Whitham, Erin E. Longbrake, Robert T. Naismith, Gregory F. Wu, Becky J. Parks, Dean M. Wingerchuk, Brian L. Rabin, Michel Toledano, W. Oliver TobinOrhun H. Kantarci, Jonathan L. Carter, B. Mark Keegan, Brian G. Weinshenker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1393-1399
Number of pages7
Issue number13
StatePublished - Sep 27 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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