Primary/Progressive Multiple Sclerosis:
New Diagnostic Criteria

A position paper.
Thompson AJ, Montalban X, Barkhof F, Brochet B, Filippi M, Miller DH, Polman CH, Stevenson VL, McDonald WI
Ann Neurol 2000 Jun;47(6):831-5
Institute of Neurology, Dept of Clinical Neurology, London, UK
PMID# 10852554; UI# 20309394

The unique clinical characteristics of Primary/Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PP/MS) pose particular diagnostic difficulties, both in excluding other causes of Progressive Syndromes and in confirming the diagnosis of MS, which is not adequately addressed by current diagnostic criteria.

This article presents new diagnostic criteria developed by a group of investigators on the basis of a review of their considerable experience with PP/MS. (We conclude that at least 1 year of clinical progression must be documented before a diagnosis of PP/MS is made.)

Three levels of diagnostic certainty have been defined: Definite, Probable, and Possible - based on clinical findings, abnormal CerebroSpinal Fluid, abnormalities on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Brain and Spinal Cord, and Evoked Potentials.

In definite PP/MS, evidence of Intrathecal synthesis of ImmunoGlobulin G together with one of the following three MRI criteria is required:

  1. Nine Brain lesions,
  2. Two Spinal Cord lesions, or
  3. Four to eight Brain lesions and one Spinal Cord lesion.

Preliminary testing of these criteria was carried out on a cohort of 156 patients participating in a European natural history study of PP/MS: 64% fulfilled the criteria for Definite PP/MS, 35% for Probable PP/MS, and only 1% for Possible PP/MS.

These criteria now require prospective validation in a cohort of newly diagnosed patients and by postmortem examination.

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