Evaluation of evoked potentials and cerebrospinal fluid analysis in the differential diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

Monica Hamilton-Bruce, A. B. Black, D. J. Chappell, P. R. Pannall

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During the 6 years to December 1988, 191 patients underwent evoked potential (EP) studies and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis for oligoclonal bands at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, for the differential diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS). Clinical data at the time of study separated patients into 3 groups, as follows: (i) multiple sclerosis (n = 90) - McDonald and Halliday Classification, 1977, (ii) other neurological disease (n = 82) and (iii) no neurological disease (n = 19). In cases of clinically definite MS, visual evoked potentials (VEPs) were abnormal and oligoclonal bands were detected in 64% and 59% of cases, respectively. However, only 15% of patients with suspected MS had abnormal VEPs, and only 23% had oligoclonal bands. Other studies have shown figures differing from these, though not necessarily significantly. We found a substantial number of EP (20%) but few CSF (4%) abnormalities in disorders other than MS, and no abnormalities in cases without neurological disease. The various figures for abnormal results in cases assessed for the differential diagnosis of MS are influenced not only by laboratory methods, but by the degree of clinical suspicion in relation to the cases selected, as well as by differences in populations from which cases are derived. Long-term prospective studies of diagnostically indeterminate cases are still required to determine the diagnostic weighting that can be applied on the basis of abnormal investigational results. Magnetic resonance imaging will not resolve these questions since it has limitations of its own, particularly with regard to specificity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-97
Number of pages9
JournalClinical and experimental neurology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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