Diagnosis of MSA

Differentiating MSA from Parkinson's disease can be difficult. Diagnosis is often based on evaluating clinical symptoms and conducting brain imaging. After death, MSA can easily be identified by pathological examination of the brain tissue during autopsy.

Striatonigral degeneration, in particular, is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's since the clinical symptoms are so similar. The most noticeable difference is that it does not respond to Parkinson's treatment. In some cases, its characteristic cerebellar atrophy (wasting of the cerebellum) can be viewed on an MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scan (computed tomography), or PET scan (positron emission tomography).

It also may be difficult to distinguish between MSA and other disorders, such as tumors, multiple sclerosis (MS), or alcoholism.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2000

Last Modified: 25 Sep 2015