Research: Diagnosing NMO

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AIM: Our aim was to evaluate the utility of aquaporin-4 antibodies (AQP4-Ab) in patients with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD).

METHODS: The clinical and radiological characteristics of 78 patients with NMOSD and 22 with multiple sclerosis (MS), who were tested for AQP4-Ab by a cell-based assay, were assessed.

RESULTS: The mean time interval between symptom onset and development of optic neuritis and myelitis was 39.9 months in neuromyelitis optica (NMO). About 40% of patients with limited NMO would have fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for MS in the absence of the antibody assay results. In patients with longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis, positive AQP4-Ab assay results were associated with the poor response to acute steroid treatment and asymptomatic visual evoked potential abnormality. Presence of either painful tonic spasm associated with myelitis or severe disability at onset had high specificity and relatively high sensitivity in differentiating NMOSD with AQP4-Ab from MS.

CONCLUSIONS: The AQP4-Ab assay can facilitate the early diagnosis of NMO and prevent limited NMO from being misdiagnosed as MS. It can predict the poor response to first-line acute-phase treatment and probably detect the subclinical optic nerve involvement in subgroups of NMOSD. Lastly, it will contribute to the upcoming revision of the current diagnostic criteria for NMO.

If you have optic neuritis you want to be sure that it is MS and not NMO and vice versa as the treatment options can be different.

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