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Presse Med. 2015 Apr;44(4 Pt 2):e121-36. doi: 10.1016/j.lpm.2015.03.002. Epub 2015 Mar 23.

Update on clinically isolated syndrome.

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Hôpital Carémeau, service de neurologie, 30029 Nîmes cedex 9, France; Université de Montpellier, institut de génomique fonctionnelle, équipe « neuroprotéomique et signalisation des maladies neurologiques et psychiatriques », UMR 5203, 34094 Montpellier cedex, France. Electronic address:


Optic neuritis, myelitis and brainstem syndrome accompanied by a symptomatic MRI T2 or FLAIR hyperintensity and T1 hypointensity are highly suggestive of multiple sclerosis (MS) in young adults. They are called "clinically isolated syndrome" (CIS) and correspond to the typical first multiple sclerosis (MS) episode, especially when associated with other asymptomatic demyelinating lesions, without clinical, radiological and immunological sign of differential diagnosis. After a CIS, the delay of apparition of a relapse, which corresponds to the conversion to clinically definite MS (CDMS), varies from several months to more than 10 years (10-15% of cases, generally called benign RRMS). This delay is generally associated with the number and location of demyelinating lesions of the brain and spinal cord and the results of CSF analysis. Several studies comparing different MRI criteria for dissemination in space and dissemination in time of demyelinating lesions, two hallmarks of MS, provided enough substantial data to update diagnostic criteria for MS after a CIS. In the last revision of the McDonald's criteria in 2010, diagnostic criteria were simplified and now the diagnosis can be made by a single initial scan that proves the presence of active asymptomatic lesions (with gadolinium enhancement) and of unenhanced lesions. However, time to conversion remains highly unpredictable for a given patient and CIS can remain isolated, especially for idiopathic unilateral optic neuritis or myelitis. Univariate analyses of clinical, radiological, biological or electrophysiological characteristics of CIS patients in small series identified numerous risk factors of rapid conversion to MS. However, large series of CIS patients analyzing several characteristics of CIS patients and the influence of disease modifying therapies brought important information about the risk of CDMS or RRMS over up to 20 years of follow-up. They confirmed the importance of the initial MRI pattern of demyelinating lesions and of CSF oligoclonal bands. Available treatments of MS (immunomodulators or immunosuppressants) have also shown unequivocal efficacy to slow the conversion to RRMS after a CIS, but they could be unnecessary for patients with benign RRMS. Beyond diagnostic criteria, knowledge of established and potential risk factors of conversion to MS and of disability progression is essential for CIS patients' follow-up and initiation of disease modifying therapies.

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