Multiple sclerosis resident survival guide

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Moises Romo, M.D., Fahimeh Shojaei, M.D.

Synonyms and keywords:Multiple sclerosis management, Multiple sclerosis workup, Multiple sclerosis approaches, approach to Multiple sclerosis, Multiple sclerosis treatment


Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune demyelinating disease of the central nervous system and it’s known to be multi-factorial. The onset of symptoms are mostly between the age of fifteen to forty years (rarely before age fifteen or after age sixty), and include fatigue, mood problems, spasticity, bowel and bladder dysfunction, cognitive impairment, eye movement problems, heat sensitivity, incoordination, pain, sexual dysfunction, sleep disorder, vertigo and visual loss. There is no single diagnostic study of choice for Multiple sclerosis. Diagnosis is currently made by the fulfilment of the McDonald criteria, which include clinical presentation, cerebral plaques on MRI , and oligoclonal bands in CSF analysis. Treatment for multiple sclerosis includes disease-modifying medications (DMTs) and immunosuppressors to prevent relapses and Glucocorticoid therapy in acute exacerbations.


Life-Threatening Causes

Life-threatening causes include conditions that may result in death or permanent disability within 24 hours if left untreated.

Common Causes


The diagnostic criteria for multiple sclerosis is 2017 McDonald criteria:[10][11]

Clinical presentation Additional Data Needed
  • 2 or more attacks (relapses)
  • 2 or more objective clinical lesions
  • None; clinical evidence will suffice (additional evidence desirable but must be consistent with MS)
  • 2 or more attacks
  • 1 objective clinical lesion
New criteria: Dissemination in space, demonstrated by:
  • MRI
  • Further clinical attack involving different site
  • Presence of 1 or more T2 lesions in at least 2 of 4 of the following areas of the CNS: Periventricular, Juxtacortical, Infratentorial, or spinal cord
  • 1 attack
  • 2 or more objective clinical lesions
Dissemination in time (DIT), demonstrated by:
  • MRI
  • Second clinical attack

New criteria: No longer a need to have separate MRIs run; dissemination in time, demonstrated by: simultaneous presence of asymptomatic gadolinium-enhancing

and non-enhancing lesions at any time; or A new T2 and/or gadolinium-enhancing lesion(s) on follow-up MRI, irrespective of its timing with reference to a baseline scan; or await a second clinical attack. [This allows for quicker diagnosis without sacrificing specificity, while improving sensitivity]

  • 1 attack
  • 1 objective clinical lesion (clinically isolated syndrome)
New criteria: Dissemination in space and time, demonstrated by:
  • For DIS: 1 or more T2 lesion in at least 2 of 4 MS-typical regions of the CNS (periventricular, juxtacortical, infratentorial, or spinal cord); or await a second clinical attack implicating a different CNS site; and for DIT: simultaneous presence of asymptomatic gadolinium-enhancing and non-enhancing lesions at any time; or a new T2 and/or gadolinium-enhancing lesion(s) on follow-up MRI, irrespective of its timing with reference to a baseline scan; or await a second clinical attack.
  • Insidious neurological progression suggestive of MS (primary progressive MS)
New criteria: One year of disease progression (retrospectively or prospectively determined) and two or three of the following:
  • Evidence for DIS in the brain based on 1 or more T2 lesions in the MS-characteristic (periventricular, juxtacortical, or infratentorial) regions
  • Evidence for DIS in the spinal cord based on 2 or more T2 lesions in the cord


Shown below is an algorithm summarizing the treatment of Multiple sclerosis according the the NHS England’s Neuroscience Clinical Reference Group guidelines:[12]

Single clinical episode suggestive of MS
Without MRI abnormalities
With MRI abnormalities and fulfilling the McDonald criteria
Do not treat
Fulfills the definition of Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS)
Patient with relapsing-remitting MS
Radiological markers indicative of a poor prognosis for rapidly developing permanent disability
Do not treat
Interferon beta 1a or glatiramer acetate
Alemtuzumab or Ocrelizumab
2 significant relapses in last 2 years
Alemtuzumab or Ocrelizumab
Poor response
Severe relapse or contraindications to high dose-steroids
Positive John Cunningham (JC) virus
Close MRI follow-up or change to Cladribine



  • Do not continue disease modifying therapy if adverse effects of the drug are observed, the patient becomes pregnant or they develop progressive disease or fixed disability above EDSS 6.5.[12]
  • Do not prescribe mitoxantrone to people with MS unless the potential therapeutic benefits greatly outweigh the risks, due to high frequency of severe adverse effects.[13]


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  8. Friese MA, Schattling B, Fugger L (2014). "Mechanisms of neurodegeneration and axonal dysfunction in multiple sclerosis". Nat Rev Neurol. 10 (4): 225–38. doi:10.1038/nrneurol.2014.37. PMID 24638138.
  9. Kutzelnigg A, Lucchinetti CF, Stadelmann C, Brück W, Rauschka H, Bergmann M, Schmidbauer M, Parisi JE, Lassmann H (2005). "Cortical demyelination and diffuse white matter injury in multiple sclerosis". Brain. 128 (Pt 11): 2705–12. doi:10.1093/brain/awh641. PMID 16230320.
  10. Gobbin F, Zanoni M, Marangi A, Orlandi R, Crestani L, Benedetti MD, Gajofatto A (January 2019). "2017 McDonald criteria for multiple sclerosis: Earlier diagnosis with reduced specificity?". Mult Scler Relat Disord. 29: 23–25. doi:10.1016/j.msard.2019.01.008. PMID 30658260.
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  14. Cortese, I.; Chaudhry, V.; So, Y. T.; Cantor, F.; Cornblath, D. R.; Rae-Grant, A. (2011). "Evidence-based guideline update: Plasmapheresis in neurologic disorders: Report of the Therapeutics and Technology Assessment Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology". Neurology. 76 (3): 294–300. doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e318207b1f6. ISSN 0028-3878.
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