Getting a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis from doctors in Oklahoma and around the country may take some time. There is not a single test for the condition, so it must be diagnosed by eliminating other possibilities and using a variety of criteria. It is also not unusual for MS to be misdiagnosed. The previous McDonald Criteria for the Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis were from 2010, so an international board of 30 experts worked to revise the criteria based on new knowledge and research. A paper about the revision was published in "The Lancet Neurology" online on Dec. 21.
Some elements of the criteria have not changed. It is still recommended that a physician with experience in MS makes the diagnosis and that there should be lesions in the nervous system, but the latter has been altered somewhat. Asymptomatic and symptomatic lesions can now be included as well as other types of lesions and lesions at different sites. Some lesions may be replaced by oligoclonal bands in the spinal fluid in the diagnosis.
The panel also had several recommendations. For example, using a brain MRI was recommended for diagnosis as well as a spinal MRI if necessary. Other recommendations included identifying the course of the disease, whether it was active and whether it was progressive at the time of diagnosis and in follow-up evaluations.
Misdiagnosing a disease can have a serious effect on a person's course of treatment. In some cases, it may be medical malpractice although there are some conditions that must be in place in a successful legal case. Medical malpractice includes both harm to the patient and the failure to provide a reasonable standard of care. This means that while most doctors might not diagnose MS immediately and this may not be malpractice. However, if a doctor fails to explore MS-like symptoms or ignores clinical results that indicate MS, an affected patient might want to meet with an attorney to explore the options that might be available.