Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to identify and diagnose a wide range of health conditions. Taking images of the internal body structure using a series of magnets and radio waves, it is often used in the diagnosis of ALS to help medical professionals exclude the possibility of other potential conditions. However, research has suggested that MRI scans may well be used as a more focused diagnostic tool in the near future.
Diagnosing a disease such as ALS is generally not just a simple case of listing the symptoms. This may well be a starting point for doctors, but further investigation will be needed before a full and accurate diagnosis is made.
If a physician suspects a condition such as ALS, the first thing that needs to be done is to have the individual assessed by a neurologist. They will start with a physical exam, which will look at any symptoms that are present. They will also examine the patient’s personal and family medical history.
Initial symptoms of ALS might include slurred speech, muscle twitching, muscle weakness and issues such as difficulty walking or problems with balance. During the diagnosis, a number of tests can be carried out. Many of these are used to exclude other potential conditions and are not signifiers of ALS being present in itself.
One test that is routinely carried out in the diagnostic process for ALS is an MRI scan. Here we take a closer look at this particular process, what it involves and how MRI scans may have a greater role to play in the future.
Magnetic resonance imaging uses a combination of radio waves and a magnetic field to produce detailed pictures of the internal body.
MRI scans are used to exclude the possibility of other conditions being the cause of the patient’s symptoms.
However, there are studies that suggest it can be used to diagnose ALS by identifying specific biomarkers that are related to the disease.
The evidence so far is limited and more research is needed, but the initial findings offer the potential for an exciting new development in the process of diagnosing ALS.
There are a number of different types of MRI scan that may be used to help with the detection and diagnosis of ALS. The main ones used include:
Whilst MRI equipment can look quite frightening, it’s a non-invasive technique that is performed safely on individuals every day in hospitals or radiology centers across the USA and throughout the world. .
MRI scans are useful for excluding the potential of other diseases but cannot be used to definitively diagnose ALS. Not yet anyway.
There have been few studies undertaken in this area and more research needs to be done, but the presence of certain biomarkers may allow physicians in the future to make a quicker and more authoritative diagnosis.
In the research that has been carried out to date, the low number of subjects and differences in presentation of the disease for individuals has led to variable results.
Larger numbers of participants and more longitudinal studies are needed if we are to fully understand what MRI scans are detecting and whether they can be used to more directly diagnose amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.