Because the cause of transverse myelitis is unknown, patients are usually diagnosed with transverse myelitis by ruling out the other possible causes of the patients symptoms. Currently, there is no single test or simple way to diagnose a patient with transverse myelitis. There are differing opinions on the best way to diagnose a case of transverse myelitis.
What tests are conducted to diagnose transverse myelitis?
In order to rule out other diseases and disorders, physicians usually review and analyze detailed information about the patient’s medical history. Physicians must also conduct a physical examination and a number of additional tests. Below is a list of tests that are often conducted prior to diagnosing a patient with transverse myelitis:
- Blood Tests: Used to screen for possible viruses or vitamin deficiencies.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): Provides images of the brain and spinal cord so that lesions can be identified.
- Lumbar Puncture: Provides information about white blood cell count and immune system activity.
WHAT INFORMATION DOES THE MRI TEST PROVIDE?
MRI tests provide physicians with images of your spinal cord and brain.
Physicians may or may not take MRI images of your entire brain or spine. Depending on your symptoms, the physician may conduct the test in the region where a lesion may be suspected.
Lesions can sometimes indicate other issues such as a herniated disc, tumor, or stenosis. Therefore, if a lesion is found, it still does not mean that the patient has transverse myelitis.
WHAT INFORMATION DOES THE BLOOD WORK PROVIDE?
Blood tests can be conducted to screen for numerous diseases and disorders. Prior to diagnosing a patient with transverse myelitis, the following blood tests are often conducted:
- HIV infection
- B12 vitamin deficiency
WHAT INFORMATION DOES THE LUMBAR PUNCTURE PROVIDE?
A lumbar puncture involves removing a small amount of spinal fluid from the spinal cord. It is not a pleasant test, but it can often provide very important information in the diagnosis of transverse myelitis.
The spinal fluid provides information about white blood cell counts. It can also demonstrate any abnormal activity of the immune system.