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J Autoimmun. 2014 Feb-Mar;48-49:134-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2014.01.022. Epub 2014 Feb 10.

The diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and the various related demyelinating syndromes: a critical review.

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Department of Neurology, Multiple Sclerosis Center and Laboratory of Neuroimmunology, The Agnes-Ginges Center for Neurogenetics, Hadassah University Hospital, Jerusalem, Ein-Kerem, Israel. Electronic address:


Multiple sclerosis (MS), is a chronic disease of the central nervous system (CNS) characterized by loss of motor and sensory function, that results from immune-mediated inflammation, demyelination and subsequent axonal damage. MS is one of the most common causes of neurological disability in young adults. Several variants of MS (and CNS demyelinating syndromes in general) have been nowadays defined in an effort to increase the diagnostic accuracy, to identify the unique immunopathogenic profile and to tailor treatment in each individual patient. These include the initial events of demyelination defined as clinically or radiologically isolated syndromes (CIS and RIS respectively), acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) and its variants (acute hemorrhagic leukoencephalitis-AHL, Marburg variant, and Balo's concentric sclerosis), Schilder's sclerosis, transverse myelitis, neuromyelitis optica (NMO and NMO spectrum of diseases), recurrent isolated optic neuritis and tumefactive demyelination. The differentiation between them is not only a terminological matter but has important implications on their management. For instance, certain patients with MS and prominent immunopathogenetic involvement of B cells and autoantibodies, or with the neuromyelitic variants of demyelination, may not only not respond well but even deteriorate under some of the first-line treatments for MS. The unique clinical and neuroradiological features, along with the immunological biomarkers help to distinguish these cases from classical MS. The use of such immunological and imaging biomarkers, will not only improve the accuracy of diagnosis but also contribute to the identification of the patients with CIS or RIS who, are at greater risk for disability progression (worse prognosis) or, on the contrary, will have a more benign course. This review summarizes in a critical way, the diagnostic criteria (historical and updated) and the definitions/characteristics of MS of the various variants/subtypes of CNS demyelinating syndromes.


Biomarkers; Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS); Diagnostic criteria; Multiple sclerosis (MS); Neuromyelitis optica (NMO); Radiologically isolated syndrome (RIS)

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