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MS and the powers that be


At least 55,000 Canadians have multiple sclerosis, 3,500 of whom live in Saskatchewan. No one’s sure why our country is home to so many MS sufferers. Brad Wall, Premier of Saskatchewan, has taken a bold move in promising to help finance clinical trials on an unproven but promising new treatment – the “liberation procedure.” He’d like other premiers to follow suit. However, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty isn’t convinced the controversial treatment is ready for testing. So, afflicted Canadians are traveling to Bulgaria, Poland, Costa Rica, Italy and India, where the procedure is available, to benefit -- even if only minimally – from any relief it may offer, at an average of $30,000 a pop.

MS patients may have a range of symptoms that include balance problems, vision impairment, muscle spasms and weakness, diplopia, dysphagia, extreme fatigue, chronic or acute pain, and bladder and bowel difficulties, including incontinence. And the majority tends to live about as long as the healthy population.

It seems only natural that a minimally invasive procedure would be worth the risk to such individuals.

Dr. Paolo Zamboni, an Italian neurologist and director of vascular diseases, came up with the liberation therapy theory at the University of Ferrara, while trying to help his wife, who has the disease ). Examination of the venous system of MS patients showed that 90% had stenosis or restricted valves in the jugular and azygos veins, interfering with blood draining. He also found high levels of iron deposits in their brains, which he surmised might be the cause of the abnormal MS immune response, where the immune system attacks the myelin sheath of brain and spinal cord nerves, causing scarring and plaques.

Dr. Zamboni dubbed the phenomenon “chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency” and used a type of angioplasty to relieve the blockage in these veins. He found 73% of his patients improved. But after about nine months, “re-stenosis” made it necessary to repeat the procedure.

Despite this drawback, it seems clear, with so many positive anecdotal reports on the Internet, that Canadian governments should consider giving more attention to this possible break-through therapy. Either that, or launching a thorough investigation of Canadian Hutterites, a group known to have a much lower than average risk of contracting MS.