April 19, 2010 (Toronto) -- People with multiple sclerosis (MS) should not
undergo a controversial new treatment that's based on the theory that blocked
neck veins can trigger MS, experts say.
Neither the theory nor the treatment -- using angioplasty to open up the
narrowed veins -- has been proved in large numbers of people, says Robert
Zivadinov, MD, PhD, a researcher at the State University of New York in Buffalo
who is studying the approach.
"There are no data at this moment to determine whether this is useful," he
"If one is contemplating that procedure, it should be done only in the
context of a properly controlled trial," says Aaron Miller, MD, chief medical
officer of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and director of the
Multiple Sclerosis Center at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York.
The research, pioneered by Paulo Zamboni, MD, of Italy's University of
Ferrara, has fueled a surge of interest within the MS community; patients are
blogging about it and doctors' phone lines are being flooded with requests for
more information. Some patients have even traveled to clinics in Italy or
Poland, spending thousands of dollars to undergo the unproven treatment.
More than 4,000 people called into a special Internet seminar to hear the
doctors speak during the annual meeting of the American Academy of
Zamboni says that MS patients who are "rapidly declining" and who have not
responded to any other medications might want to appeal to doctors to receive
the treatment "under compassionate grounds."
"For these types of patients, the publication of our [research] generated a
desperate need to find this type of treatment," he says.
Still, a clinical trial is better as that helps ensure that physicians
follow the appropriate procedures, Zamboni says.
MS patients who do enter clinical trials should continue taking the drugs
their doctors have prescribed, the experts stress.
"There is no reason to stop treatments," Zivadinov says. "Clinical trials
over the last 25 years have clearly shown the advantages of those
Multiple sclerosis is thought to be an autoimmune disease in which the
body's immune system mistakenly attacks the brain and spinal cord, causing
inflammation and triggering symptoms such as loss of muscle control and
According to Zamboni's theory, blockages in veins leading from the brain
cause iron-rich blood to back up into the brain, triggering the inflammation
that damages the brain and spinal cord. The condition is dubbed chronic
cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI).
In his first, small imaging study, all the MS patients had the blockages,
while none of the healthy people did.
At the meeting, Zivadinov presented data on the first 500 participants in a
new study, 289 of whom had MS. Results were less dramatic, with ultrasounds
revealing blockages in 62% of MS patients, 26% of healthy participants, and 45%
of people with other neurological disorders.