Around one in five patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis do not, in fact, have the disease, a new study has revealed.
The research report, published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, highlights the difficulty of accurately diagnosing the condition.
At current there is no single test that can directly identify multiple sclerosis with certainty, meaning a multi-pronged approach must be deployed to rule out mimicking conditions.
These evaluations can include Lab tests, cross-referencing medical history, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brain.
With no standardised diagnostic tool, however, the risk of misdiagnosis is still high, potentially impacting on patients’ treatments.
The study, conducted in America, looked at 364 patients who had been evaluated and referred for further treatment between June 2016 and June 2017.
It was found that some 18 per cent of these patients had been misdiagnosed, spending on average four years receiving specialised treatment before being correctly diagnosed.
Alarmingly, the study points to one particular patient who had been wrongly treated for MS for 20 years.
Commenting on the results of the study, the researchers said: “In our combined cohort, almost one in five patients who carried an established diagnosis of MS did not fulfil contemporary McDonald Criteria and had a more likely alternate diagnosis.
“Misdiagnosis appeared to be associated with misapplication of MS diagnostic criteria, specifically overreliance on – or misinterpretation of – radiographic findings in patients with syndromes atypical for MS.”
The study suggests an urgent need for further research to pinpoint MS-specific biomarkers to help accurately diagnose MS.