"A series of studies performed during the last few years, with improved techniques for spinal cord MRI, shows that it is a powerful tool not only to demonstrate MS lesions, but also to exclude alternative diagnoses," said Chris H. Polman, M.D., of the Free University Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and chair of the current panel. The new criteria conclude that only two separate MRI scans are needed to evaluate whether the disease is progressing.

Because there is increasing evidence that MS drugs such as interferon beta and glatiramer acetate are most effective when started early in the disease course. "The ability to make the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis early and accurately is important for both patient care and for clinical research including clinical trials of new treatments," said Robert P. Lisak, M.D., of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and chair of the American Neurological Association's public information committee.

The original McDonald Criteria were the first to incorporate MRI testing into the traditional tool kit of neurological history and examination, along with various laboratory exams. Brain imaging can show physicians the damaged sites in the brain and spinal cord.

Multiple sclerosis is an enigmatic disease of the nervous system and results in the loss of myelin, a substance that normally insulates nerve fibers and speeds electrical conduction through the fibers. Depending on which nerve fibers are hindered, patients can experience problems ranging from weakness and clumsiness to numbness, visual disturbances, and even emotional and intellectual alterations. Sometimes MS manifests itself in cycles of relapse and remission or the disease progresses steadily.

MEDICA.de; Source: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.