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ALS Diagnosis

ALS Diagnosis and Second Opinions at UC San Diego Health System

There is no one essential diagnostic test for ALS diagnosis and the road to diagnosis may be different from one patient to another. 

Often, the diagnosis is established when other diseases or conditions that mimic ALS are ruled out. Patients often have already had extensive testing including diagnostic imaging such as MRI scans, electrodiagnostic testing (EMG and nerve conduction studies), lumbar puncture, blood tests and genetic testing.

Ultimately, ALS is a clinical diagnosis made by a skilled neurologist and no single test is relied on to make or deny the diagnosis.

The Initial Appointment at UC San Diego Health System


One important test often performed is called electromyography which is an electrical test of muscle. Shown here are abnormal electrical discharges called fibrillations which occur when muscles lose there nerve supply. Fibrillations are not specific to ALS and may not be seen in some patients or some muscles in those with ALS -- but fibrillations are one of many things that are sought in the diagnostic process.

The most important element of diagnosis is the in-person evaluation. This will occur at an initial appointment, where the history of the problems will be reviewed, a physical examination will be conducted and information from other physicians will be reviewed. Make sure records from previous evaluations are available—only patients know the full extent of previous testing and it will save time and effort if these are available.

A UC San Diego Health System neurologist will give his or her opinion, outline recommendations and work with the patient to establish a personalized care plan. Depending on the circumstances, this will likely include one or more of the following elements:

  • Diagnosis, if it can be made at this time
  • Recommendations for further testing, if needed
  • Recommendations and referral to ourALS multidisciplinary clinical team and clinic
  • Or, recommendations to their primary care provider or health organization, if appropriate

We strive to take into account the particulars of each person’s case, including their geographic location, in order to make testing or care as efficient as possible.

Appointment Location

The first appointment or second opinion appointment takes place at:

UC San Diego Health System - La Jolla
Executive Drive
4510 Executive Drive, Suite 325
San Diego, CA 92121

Schedule an Appointment

To schedule an appointment, call 619-543-5300.

Learn more

Find out about how we are caring for people with ALS in our multidisciplinary clinic.