Skip to Content

Multiple Sclerosis: MRI Results

Topic Overview

AnMRIscan is the best way to locatemultiple sclerosis (MS)lesions (also called plaques) in the brain or spinal cord. An MRI scan is abnormal in more than 95% of people recently diagnosed with MS.footnote 1

But abnormal MRI results do not always mean that you have MS. Abnormalities show up on scans from many illnesses other than MS. An abnormal finding on an MRI scan alone is not enough to diagnose MS. Your doctor will confirm a diagnosis of MS based on your symptoms, your neurological exam, and the results from an MRI and other tests.

When abnormal MRI results occur along with a medical history, abnormal nervous system exam, and other test results that are typical of MS, it is very likely that you have MS.

If you have already been diagnosed with MS, MRI scans can sometimes distinguish new lesions from older ones and can help your doctor(s) follow the progress of the disease. Continuing to have periodic MRI scans if you haverelapsing-remitting MSmay help identify new lesions even when you are not having symptoms from those new lesions.

If you have had just one episode of MS-like symptoms and are trying to decide whether to start treatment with medicine, MRI scans can be helpful in assessing the progress of the disease. If new lesions are developing or if existing lesions are growing-regardless of whether you have had further episodes of MS symptoms-most doctors will recommend that you begin treatment.

Health Tools

Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.

References

Citations

  1. Rowland LP (2010). Multiple sclerosis. In LP Rowland, TA Pedley, eds., Merritt's Neurology, 12th ed., pp. 902-918. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerKarin M. Lindholm, DO - Neurology

Current as ofOctober 9, 2017

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2018 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.

Symptom Checker

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.