OBJECTIVES:The prevalence and definition of benign multiple sclerosis (BMS) remain controversial. Most definitions are based on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS), not encompassing the wider impact of disease. The explanation for favourable outcomes remains unclear. We aim to provide a detailed characterisation of patients with low EDSS scores at long disease durations.
RESULTS: Of 1049 patients with disease duration of >15 years, 200 (19.1%) had most recent EDSS score <4.0. Detailed contemporary clinical assessment of a representative sample of 60 of these patients revealed 48 (80%) had an EDSS score of <4.0, 35 (58%) <3.0 and 16 (27%) <2.0. Only nine (15%) fulfilled our criteria for BMS; impaired cognition (57%) and effects on employment (52%) the most common causes for exclusion. Meanwhile, 33/60 (69%) patients considered their disease benign. Population frequency for BMS was estimated at 2.9% (95% CI 2.0 to 4.1).
CONCLUSIONS: Comprehensive assessment reveals a small minority of people with MS who appear genuinely benign after 15 years. Study of such individuals may uncover insights about disease pathogenesis. However, discrepancy between patient perception and clinician perception of BMS undermines use of the term ‘benign’ in clinical settings