- •A longer time to see a neuroimmunologist is associated with NMOSD misdiagnosis.
- •A longer time to receive a first MRI scan is associated with NMOSD misdiagnosis.
- •A negative aquaporin 4-IgG result increases the risk of an NMOSD misdiagnosis.
- •NMOSD misdiagnosis puts individuals at greater risk of receiving fragmented care.
- •Prevalence of rash among subjects prior to NMOSD diagnosis was a new finding.
Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) is a rare autoimmune condition that is associated with severe disability. Approximately 40% of individuals are misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) or other diseases. We aimed to define factors that influence the misdiagnosis of people with NMOSD and provide strategies for reducing error rates.
A retrospective study was performed involving all people with a confirmed diagnosis of NMOSD within a single academic institution. Comprehensive clinical timelines were constructed for each individual that included presenting symptoms, provider type and timing of evaluations, aquaporin 4-IgG (AQP4) results, and MRI scans. Two-sample comparisons of continuous and categorial variables were performed for people accurately diagnosed with NMOSD and those originally misdiagnosed with another medical condition. A subanalysis of only AQP4-IgG positive people was also performed.
The study cohort included 199 people fulfilling International Panel criteria for NMOSD with 71 people (62 female; mean age at first symptom presentation (standard deviation (SD)) = 32.8 years (y) (SD 16.1)) being initially misdiagnosed and 128 people (106 female; 41.14y (SD 15.41)) who were accurately diagnosed. Of the 199 people with NMOSD, 166 had a positive serostatus. Identified factors associated with misdiagnosis, regardless of AQP4-IgG serostatus, were the presence of protracted nausea/vomiting/hiccups without any accompanying neurological symptoms, 23 (32.4%) versus 16 (12.5%) (p = 0.001), a longer median (range) time to see a neuroimmunology specialist 4.2y (0.14–31.8) versus 0.5y (0.0–21.2) (p<0.0001), and a delay in acquiring an MRI study, 4.7y (0.0–27.3) versus 0.3y (0.0–20.2) (p<0.0001). A greater proportion of people misdiagnosed were identified with a negative live-cell based AQP4-IgG serum test result, 13/13 (100%) versus 22/114 (19.3%) (p<0.0001). Additionally, the mean (SD) time between a first negative and successive live-cell based AQP4-IgG positive test result was greater for people misdiagnosed with another condition, 3.9y (SD 5.0) versus 1.5y (SD 2.1) (p = 0.01). Although not significant between groups, a rash was also reported in 63/199 people with NMOSD, with 31/63 having an anti-nuclear antibody titer ≥ 1:160.
Defined factors can help guide both generalists and specialists in the pursuit of strategies aimed at efficiently diagnosing those with NMOSD such that effective care can be delivered.
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Published online: January 02, 2023
Accepted: January 1, 2023
Received in revised form: December 5, 2022
Received: November 2, 2022
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