Posted by: Dead in 1 year or less | April 11, 2012

McDonald Criteria for Diagnosis

There are a range of tests that a neurologist will do to find out if someone has MS or not. Although it can be frightening to go through medical tests, the health professionals involved should reassure you and make it as easy for you as possible.

Tests for MS include:

MRI scanningEvoked potentialsLumbar punctureOther tests
The neurologist will use specific criteria to diagnose MS, known as the McDonald criteria.

Neurological examination

Your neurologist will ask you lots of questions about past symptoms and problems – this is known as ‘history taking’. It helps the neurologist get a better picture of you and can help identify any other problems that may explain current symptoms.
A physical examination checks for changes or weaknesses in your eye movements, leg or hand coordination, balance, sensation, speech or reflexes. Whilst a neurologist may strongly suspect MS at this stage, a diagnosis won’t be given until other test results confirm MS.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI scanner uses a strong magnetic field to create a detailed image of your brain and spinal cord. It is very accurate and can pinpoint the exact location and size of any damage or scarring (lesions). MRI scans confirm a diagnosis in over 90 per cent of people with MS.
To get the image of a person’s brain and spinal cord they must lie down and enter a small tunnel in the centre of the MRI scanner. The process can take between 10 and 60 minutes and is painless, though some people can feel a little claustrophobic in the scanner. There’s more information about going for an MRI scan on the Royal College of Radiologists website. 

Evoked potentials

This involves testing the time it takes for your brain to receive messages. Your neurologist will place small electrodes on your head to monitor your brain waves responding to what you see or hear. If myelin damage has occurred, messages to and from your brain will be slower.
Again, this is painless.

Lumbar puncture

This is sometimes called a spinal tap. It involves a needle being inserted into the space around your spinal cord, under local anaesthetic. A small sample of the fluid that flows around the brain and spinal cord, called cerebrospinal fluid, is then taken and tested for abnormalities. People with MS often have antibodies in this fluid.
People commonly report headaches following a lumbar puncture. The medical staff should advise you on how to manage this.(Note from Bonnie – read about my lumbar puncture)

Other tests


To rule out conditions that are similar to MS, other tests may also be done. These may include blood tests to reveal certain antibodies, and inner ear tests to check your balance.

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