Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (cont.)
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Exams and Tests
No one test gives a definitive diagnosis of ALS. If you are having symptoms that suggest ALS, your health care provider will conduct a complete workup. He or she will conduct a detailed medical interview and physical examination and review the results of various tests before arriving at a diagnosis. At any time during the workup or treatment planning, your healthcare provider may refer you to a specialist in diseases of the nervous system (neurologist).
Your healthcare provider will ask you many questions about:
A detailed physical examination will focus on your mental abilities, movements, sensations, and reflexes.
There is no lab test that confirms the diagnosis of sporadic ALS. Your healthcare provider may order a number of blood tests. Many of these are used to rule out specific conditions that may cause the symptoms you are having. These conditions include infections, metabolic problems, and autoimmune conditions. It is important to distinguish ALS from other conditions because many of these conditions can be improved with appropriate treatment.
You may undergo magnetic resonance imaging study (MRI) of the brain or spinal cord. MRI findings are normal in ALS, but these studies may be needed to rule out other conditions whose symptoms are similar to those of ALS.
Needle electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies are the tests of choice for confirming the diagnosis of ALS. They also can rule out certain other conditions that may be confused with ALS.
In certain circumstances, a muscle biopsy is done to rule out muscle diseases that may have similar symptoms. A biopsy is removal of a tiny piece of tissue. The tissue is tested and examined under a microscope by a physician called a pathologist. The pathologist reports his or her findings back to the physician who ordered the biopsy.
Fernando Dangond, MD
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