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Nat Rev Neurol. 2009 Dec;5(12):672-82. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2009.178.

Clinical prognostic factors in multiple sclerosis: a natural history review.

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Department of Clinical Neurology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.


This Review summarizes the natural history studies on multiple sclerosis (MS) that have evaluated prognostic factors. Reassessment of prognostic factors is warranted, as our ability to offer patients a reliable prognosis is limited, yet we rely on this knowledge to appropriately design clinical trials and interpret their results. The selection criteria for studies to review included a geographical referral base, duration of at least 9 years, prospective design, and populations of at least 100 patients with MS. For all forms of MS combined, negative prognostic factors included progressive disease, and disability at 2 and 5 years. In relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) and secondary progressive MS (SPMS) combined, negative prognostic factors were the onset of progression, a higher relapse rate, greater disability in the first 5 years, a shorter interval to the second relapse, and the involvement of more systems. Additional negative factors include a shorter time to progression in SPMS and a faster rate of disability in the first 2 and 5 years in primary progressive MS (PPMS). Onset of progression, relapse rate and disability in the initial 5 years could be fruitful therapeutic targets; however, longer-term clinical trials will be required to justify these end points.

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