Study shows slow diagnoses of neurological diseases
Article Thumbnail ImageSeptember 20, 2013 -- It takes more than a year to diagnose some patients with major neurological diseases, causing unnecessary treatment delays and anxiety.

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The findings come from a new survey commissioned by GE Healthcare and conducted by Praxis Research, which polled 240 physicians and 110 patients in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and France regarding diagnosis delays in cases of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis.

According to the survey, patient estimates of median time to diagnosis from onset of symptoms were seven to 12 months across all disease states. Alzheimer's was diagnosed the fastest, at 12.7 months, on average, followed by multiple sclerosis (13.6 months) and Parkinson's (14.7 months).

Physicians responded that approximately one-third of patients could or should have been diagnosed earlier and may suffer unnecessarily as a result of delay.

On average, 86% of patients across the disease areas said they suffered some anxiety when they first visited a physician about their symptoms, the survey found. More multiple sclerosis sufferers exhibited anxiety (94%) than Parkinson's or Alzheimer's patients during the period of diagnosis. However, on average, 52% said that finding out what disease they had was a relief.

Other survey results included the following:

  • It was common for patients to make multiple visits to both general practitioners and specialists before receiving a diagnosis. Multiple sclerosis patients required more visits (average of six visits) than people with Alzheimer's (five visits) and Parkinson's (fewer than four).
  • Physicians noted that some patients suffered complications of their conditions before they received a final diagnosis. Nearly 20% of multiple sclerosis sufferers made unscheduled hospital visits during their diagnosis period.
  • Many patients said they were unable to conduct their normal lives during the diagnosis period. More than half of those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis were employed during the diagnosis period, and most of them needed to take time off of work -- many taking more than two weeks off for this or another medical condition.