Thursday, April 1, 2010

Imaging Shedding Light On MS

The value of magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, in diagnosing MS and assessing the disease's progression is not new. MRIs are the most effective and noninvasive way to test for MS. They have the ability to show differences in soft tissues. In testing for MS, the powerful magnets scan the brain and spinal cord for lesions. These images allow for early diagnosis of MS, which in turn allows early administration of disease modifying drugs that can make a big difference. In a Washington University in St. Louis article, Michael C. Purdy shows how researchers are using "an experimental imaging technique using the MRI scanner, known as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which could help to distinguish between myelin damage and axon loss." They predict that DTI results will be useful in other types of MS research as well.

Access to this type of innovative technology is expensive. The cost of a basic MRI can vary both nationally and with in states. In Raleigh, NC, the average MRI scan costs $3,001. Due to the high cost, many insurance companies require prior authorization for MRI's. The process for prior authorization can be lengthy and complex. This process can result in the denial or postponement of a patient's MRI scan. With out the use of MRI machines, MS practically becomes a "disease of exclusion" says Anne H. Cross, MD, where "the doctor first rules out a list of other potential diagnoses until MS is the only think left."

If your insurance coverage is now requiring submission for prior authorization for your MRI, please share your comments on the blog or let the chapter know about your situation. The National MS Society wants to work together with you to breakdown barriers to care.

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