Multiple Sclerosis Ms Diagnosis

A multiple sclerosis diagnosis isn’t based on the result of a single test. Instead, diagnosis follows a careful medical analysis, (including the patient’s medical history and a thorough symptom examination) and is positive only after ruling out other possible causes of the symptoms. Diagnostic imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are routinely performed. Laboratory testing may also reveal the presence of characteristic IgG antibodies. Once all the tests are compiled, a multiple sclerosis diagnosis is possible.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

For a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, at least two isolated lesions or defects must appear in the central nervous system. The presence of lesions may become apparent through a nervous system dysfunction, and/or imaging studies. If these defects cannot be explained by other causes, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is considered.

Multiple sclerosis damage usually takes the form of sclerotic plaques, scarring of the protective myelin sheath surrounding neuron cells. Diagnostic imaging can reveal these plaques. While a computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan is often used in multiple sclerosis diagnosis, an MRI will yield more sensitive results.

Magnetic resonance imaging uses a powerful magnetic field to generate images of the central nervous system. Multiple sclerosis scarring missed in a CT scan’s “blind spots” may appear on an MRI.

To augment a magnetic resonance imaging test, gadolinium contrast is sometimes used. Gadolinium is a magnetic element that shows up on MRI scans. When introduced into the nervous system, gadolinium shows up in CNS lesions. High levels of the contrast in a lesion suggest multiple sclerosis is in an active phase. Combining magnetic resonance imaging with gadolinium contrast is often used after diagnosis to monitor disease progression.

Detecting IgG Antibodies

In addition to magnetic resonance imaging, a number of other diagnostic tests are used to arrive at a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Cerebrospinal fluid is collected by means of a spinal tap and examined for evidence of IgG antibodies, which are associated with multiple sclerosis.

Up to 95 percent of multiple sclerosis cases test positive for a specific pattern of IgG antibodies known as the oligoclonal IgG pattern. This pattern of IgG antibodies indicates central nervous system inflammation, a common feature of multiple sclerosis.

IgG antibody tests are not used alone in multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Instead, the presence of oligoclonal IgG antibodies is used to support the results found in magnetic resonance imaging, medical history and symptoms. Taken alone, the presence of oligoclonal IgG antibodies cannot be used to make a multiple sclerosis diagnosis.

Evoked Potential Tests and MS Diagnosis

In addition to MRI scans and testing for IgG antibodies, neurological tests help with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Evoked potential tests are electric tests used to detect the slowing of neural message transmissions. Evoked potential tests of the visual network can be employed to provide support for a multiple sclerosis diagnosis.


Dangond, F. (updated 2005). Multiple sclerosis.

Fauci, A., Braunwald, E., Isselbacher, K., Wilson, J., Martin, J., Kasper, D., Hauser, S.