What to Expect - Multiple Sclerosis

What to Expect
Patient Guide: Multiple Sclerosis

Common Tests or Labs to Diagnose Multiple Sclerosis

In recent years, doctors have been able to diagnose multiple sclerosis earlier in patients. It could take years for warning signs and symptoms of the disease to lead to a definitive diagnosis. However, newer techniques have been refined with tests to help rule out any other neurological or muscular condition and come to a conclusive diagnosis. Currently, there are three benchmark tests in addition to a thorough examination and review of symptom history. They are listed below in this patient education guide:
Test Why Test? What Happens? What is a Normal/Abnormal Result?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Visualizes and describes brain defects (plaques) A patient lies on a table that slides into a large tunnel-shaped machine. Gadolinium (dye) is injected into the vein to help make the images more clear. Abnormal results show plaque or scar tissue along the nerve fibers.
Spinal Tap Fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain is analyzed for antibodies, abnormal chemicals or cells A patient lies on a table in a curled position and the physician locates the space between the vertebras; a needle with syringe is inserted and fluid is sucked out. Abnormal results would reveal antibodies, or white blood cells
Electrophysiological Test Assesses nerve impulse transmissions A patient lies on a table and electrodes are inserted into the muscles to be tested. Stimulation is applied through the skin over the nerve and the contraction of the muscle records the electric activity. Abnormal results would be a slowing of the transmission greater than the expected speed.