2 questions to ask if you’re told you have multiple sclerosis

Dominic Carone, PhD, at Upstate’s Institute for Human Performance, where the Neuropsychology Assessment Program is located. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)

Among patients treated for multiple sclerosis, up to 10 percent have been mistakenly diagnosed and treated for the disorder. “In many cases they are treated for 10 years or longer, causing for them financial, emotional and physical hardship,” says Upstate neuropsychologist Dominic Carone, PhD.

Carone wrote in the journal Applied Neuropsychology: Adult about a middle-aged woman who for five years was treated for MS, a disease of the central nervous system, and for a hereditary and rare form of stroke. When her condition declined, her neurologist referred her to Carone, the coordinator of the Neuropsychology Assessment Program at Upstate.

It turns out that MS and this rare stroke disorder have never been known to occur in the same person. Since genetic testing, imaging scans and other evidence proved the woman had the rare stroke disorder, Carone convinced her neurologist that she did not have MS.

This case highlights how neuropsychological consultations can help improve diagnostic decision-making and stresses the importance of doctors distinguishing a particular disease or condition from others with similar features.

It also provides two lessons for patients who receive an MS diagnosis. Carone suggests asking: “On what criteria is my diagnosis based?” and “Can I have a second opinion?”

This article appears in the summer 2017 issue of Upstate Health magazineClick here for a podcast/radio interview in which Carone talks about MS,  the role of a neuropsychologist and the individual case outlined above.

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