Diagnostic criteria for primary progressive multiple sclerosis: a position paper

Ann Neurol. 2000 Jun;47(6):831-5.


The unique clinical characteristics of primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) pose particular diagnostic difficulties, both in excluding other causes of progressive syndromes and in confirming the diagnosis of MS, which is not adequately addressed by current diagnostic criteria. This article presents new diagnostic criteria developed by a group of investigators on the basis of a review of their considerable experience with PPMS. (We conclude that at least 1 year of clinical progression must be documented before a diagnosis of PPMS is made.) Three levels of diagnostic certainty have been defined-definite, probable, and possible--based on clinical findings, abnormal cerebrospinal fluid, abnormalities on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and spinal cord, and evoked potentials. In definite PPMS, evidence of intrathecal synthesis of immunoglobulin G together with one of the following three MRI criteria is required: (1) nine brain lesions, (2) two spinal cord lesions, or (3) four to eight brain lesions and one spinal cord lesion. Preliminary testing of these criteria was carried out on a cohort of 156 patients participating in a European natural history study of PPMS: 64% fulfilled the criteria for definite PPMS, 35% for probable PPMS, and only 1% for possible PPMS. These criteria now require prospective validation in a cohort of newly diagnosed patients and by postmortem examination.

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disease Progression
  • Documentation
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / diagnosis*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / physiopathology*