Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or not: Keys for the diagnosis

Rev Neurol (Paris). 2017 May;173(5):280-287. doi: 10.1016/j.neurol.2017.04.003. Epub 2017 Apr 28.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a degenerative motor neuron disease (MND) which prognosis is poor. Early diagnosis permit to set up immediately adapted treatment and cares. Available diagnostic criteria are based on the detection of both central and peripheral motor neuron injury in bulbar, cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions. Electrodiagnostic (EDX) tests are the key tools to identify peripheral motor neuron involvement. Needle examination records abnormal activities at rest, and looks for neurogenic pattern during muscle contraction. Motor unit potentials morphology is modified primary to recruitment. Motor evoked potentials remain the test of choice to identify impairment of central motor neurons. In the absence of diagnostic biomarker of ALS and among essential investigations of suspected MND, a careful clinical and neurophysiological work-up is essential to rule out the differential diagnosis.

Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis mimics; Diagnostic criteria; Electrodiagnostic tests; Lower motor neuron; Motor neuron disease; Upper motor neuron.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electrodiagnosis
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor
  • Humans
  • Motor Neuron Disease / diagnosis*
  • Prognosis