As MS patients are all too well aware, multiple sclerosis can cause a wide range of symptoms, from weakness and numbness to visual changes. But most MS patients don’t realize that they are very likely to have another condition known as autonomic dysfunction, or dysautonomia, and that it is dysautonomia rather than MS that is responsible for many of their most debilitating symptoms.
Dysautonomia is a well studied condition that is seen in all neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s, and it is present in the majority of people with MS. The symptoms caused by dysautonomia are often improperly attributed to MS. These symptoms include fatigue, inability to thermoregulate, impaired cognition (also known as “brain fog”), headaches upon awakening, and bladder and bowel problems. Often patients report that it is these autonomic symptoms, rather than neurologic or motor symptoms, that have the greatest impact on their quality of life.
Targeting dysautonomia for treatment is not part of modern neurology care. With treatment options for MS being very limited, addressing the associated dysautonomia offers an alternative means to reduce the symptoms experienced by a large portion of MS patients.
Traditional medicine has focused on the autonomic nervous system for centuries. Meridians, for example, are a type of autonomic map used in Chinese Medicine. Modern medicine, on the other hand, has largely ignored the autonomic system, offering very limited care options for dysautonomia. Over the past few years, we have developed a treatment protocol that is very effective in correcting autonomic dysfunction. The treatment is a venous form of Transvascular Autonomic Modulation (TVAM), and it is highly successful in reducing the autonomic symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis.
The TVAM procedure is minimally invasive, performed via catheter much like angioplasty. But rather than targeting the vessel, the procedure targets the nerves that travel with the large central veins of the neck, chest and abdomen. Using a small, inflatable balloon device, the afferent autonomic nerve fibers surrounding the vein are stimulated by mechanical energy. These nerve fibers are sometimes called baroreceptors, and they serve as a conduit between the body and the central nervous system, providing information on venous blood volume or pressure.
Based on our research, we believe that by stimulating these nerve fibers, we are able to achieve a re-balance in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is where the autonomic nervous system interacts with the endocrine system, in particular the part known as the HPA axis. Our data also indicates a resetting effect in the HPA axis which is likely responsible for the long-term symptomatic relief for the majority of our patients.
A review of the technique has been submitted for publication in a peer reviewed journal. It demonstrates the safety of the treatment. It also quantifies autonomic symptom response of over 90%. While not everyone will respond, and in some patients the response may be of limited duration, we do see that the majority of patients have a durable response. A review of approximately 400 of our patients demonstrated that 75% have improving or stable symptoms at 6 months and beyond. Some of our patients have symptomatic relief lasting greater than three years. These patients show noticeably improved cognitive function, better bladder and bowel function, higher energy levels, and a reduction in sleep disturbances, waking headaches, and hot and cold intolerance.
Before our patients undergo the procedure, we perform an HRV (heart rate variability) analysis on them to objectively determine the presence of dysautonomia. Over 95% of the MS patients at our clinic have confirmation of dysautonomia when tested with HRV. By addressing the autonomic dysfunction we are able to reduce symptoms and greatly improve the quality of life for most of our patients.
While treatment is aimed at dysautonomia, patients may also experience improvements in neurologic symptoms. This improvement is predominantly in motor symptoms, with about 50% of our patients experiencing improvements in balance, ease of walking, increased core strength and normalization of muscle tone/spasticity.
If you would like to learn more about the TVAM procedure, feel free to give us a call at 877-792-2784, and we will get back to you promptly to answer any questions you might have. Alternately, you can contact us via our web form.
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