The frequency and characteristics of multiple sclerosis misdiagnosis in Latin America: A referral center study in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Mult Scler. 2022 Aug;28(9):1373-1381. doi: 10.1177/13524585211067521. Epub 2021 Dec 31.


Objective: Most contemporary data concerning the frequency and causes of multiple sclerosis (MS) misdiagnosis are from North America and Europe with different healthcare system structure and resources than countries in Latin America. We sought to determine the frequency, and potential contributors to MS misdiagnosis in patients evaluated at an MS referral center in Argentina.

Methods: The study was a retrospective medical record review. We included patients evaluated at the MS Clinic at Fleni between April 2013 and March 2021. Diagnoses prior to consultation, final diagnoses after consultation, demographic, clinical and paraclinical data, and treatment were extracted and classified.

Results: Seven hundred thirty-six patients were identified. Five hundred seventy-two presented with an established diagnosis of MS and after evaluation, misdiagnosis was identified in 89 (16%). Women were at 83% greater risk of misdiagnosis (p = 0.034). The most frequent alternative diagnoses were cerebrovascular disease, radiological isolated syndrome (RIS), and headache. Seventy-four (83%) of misdiagnosed patients presented with a syndrome atypical for demyelination, 62 (70%) had an atypical brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and 54 (61%) were prescribed disease-modifying therapy.

Conclusion: Sixteen percent of patients with established MS were subsequently found to have been misdiagnosed. Women were at higher risk for misdiagnosis. Expert application of the McDonald criteria may prevent misdiagnosis and its associated morbidity and healthcare system cost.

Keywords: Multiple sclerosis misdiagnosis; diagnostic error MS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Argentina / epidemiology
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Latin America / epidemiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / diagnosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / epidemiology
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Retrospective Studies