How is MND diagnosed?
There is no single test to work out if you have MND, but a range of tests can help rule out other causes. Select from the following for more information.
"It took several tests and visits to different places before MND was diagnosed." Person with MND
Arrange an appointment with your GP if you think you might have MND. If your GP thinks you have a condition affecting the nerves or brain (a neurological problem), you will be referred to a neurologist.
If your neurologist thinks a neurological problem is causing your symptoms, they may advise tests to work out the cause. There is no single test to work out if you have MND, but a range of tests can help rule out other causes. You usually attend these tests as an outpatient, but in some cases you may need to spend a short stay in hospital.
Depending on your symptoms, your neurologist may advise the following tests:
Clinical examination: helps the neurologist recognise signs and work out which tests are appropriate, depending on your symptoms.
Blood test: looks for a rise in a substance called creatine kinase. This is produced when muscle breaks down. It is sometimes found in the blood of people with MND, but may indicate other conditions.
Electromyography (EMG): is sometimes called the needle test, as fine needles record the natural nerve impulses within certain muscles. When muscles start to lose their nerve supply, this can be detected, even if the muscle activity still seems normal.
Nerve conduction test: applies an electrical impulse through a small pad on the skin. This measures the speed at which nerves carry electrical signals.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): measures the activity of the upper motor neurones to help diagnosis.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): scans involve being placed in a cylinder-like machine. The machine takes internal images of the body. These help rule out conditions such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, tumours and trapped nerves, as well as injury to the spine and brain.
Up to 1 in 10 people may have a family history of the disease. In these cases, genetic testing with guidance from genetic counselling may help to confirm an MND diagnosis. Read more on our page about inherited MND.
A few of the genes involved with inherited MND are sometimes found in cases with no known family history of the disease. This means that genetic testing may start to become more routine during early assessments. Find out more in our web news about this research. This type of early testing could help to speed up diagnosis, which can be lengthy with MND. It could also help target different MND types more effectively, leading to more personalised approaches to treatment in the future.