Benign MS. How common is it?

Benign MS is MS is something that I guess you hope for, if you get an MS diagnosis. Likewise if you are a neurologist, benign MS may mean that you don’t  commit to treatment.

But how common is this in the UK?

Tallantyre EC, Major PC, Atherton MJ, Davies WA, Joseph F, Tomassini V, Pickersgill TP, Harding KE, Willis MD, Winter M, Robertson NP. How common is truly benign MS in a UK population? J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2018. pii: jnnp-2018-318802.

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.

METHODS: We screened a population-based registry containing 3062 people with MS to identify individuals with unlimited walking ability at disease durations >15 years. A representative cohort underwent detailed clinical assessment and classified as having BMS according to EDSS score <3, no significant fatigue, mood disturbance, cognitive impairment or disrupted employment, and had not received a disease-modifying therapy. We determined patient-reported perceptions of MS status and made comparisons with EDSS-based definitions.
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

ProfG is not a fan of benign MS, as he recognises that may people will worsen, so if do you not treat for fear of over treating you may risk worsening in the large majority who would worsen.

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