The ABCs of MS & CCSVI

Imagine yourself driving down the highway.  There’s nothing but you, your car, and nice smooth pavement. Regardless of your destination, you will get there quickly if you need to.

Now imagine that the highway has been stripped of its pavement and the road has become rough and unpredictable.  Guess what? You’re not getting to your destination nearly as quickly…if at all.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease that strips your body’s highways of their pavement, so to speak.  The central nervous system (made up of the brain and spinal cord) is the information highway of your body.  Myelin, which increases the speed at which impulses travel along our nerves, is the pavement.  When myelin degrades, the nerve signal is impaired, and sometimes lost.

People with MS can have many different symptoms.  Although much is known about correct diagnosis, different presentations of the disease, and medicinal treatments, little is known about the cause of MS.

Current research has shown that a complicated relationship between environmental and genetic risk factors may play an important role for people diagnosed with the disease.  Recently (June 2008), an Italian study was published pointing to a possible relationship between MS and blockages in the veins of the head and neck.

Dr. Paolo Zamboni, the main author of the Italian study, coined the term Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency, commonly known as CCSVI.  The theory is that the veins in the head and neck that drain blood back to the heart are narrower than usual.  This results in a build up of pressure that forces blood back up into the brain.  Over time, this blood leaks out of the blood vessels into the central nervous system depositing iron in those tissues (primarily the brain).  Unfortunately, iron is an irritant and triggers the immune response associated with MS.

Dr. Zamboni’s  initial studies found that nearly 90% of his subjects with MS had CCSVI found during Doppler Ultrasound, however his studies have been criticized heavily for not having control groups.  Dr. Zamboni felt strongly about his results, and his conclusions included a strong recommendation that more research was needed to further prove his theory.

More recent studies of CCSVI have shown it to occur more frequently in people with MS (as well as other neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s, ALS, and Alzheimer’s), but it has also been found in people without disease.  A 2011 Meta-Analysis  (looking at 8 high quality studies from around the world) found a strong, statistically significant association between MS and CCSVI, yet, like Zamboni, the authors recommended more research is needed.

Current research also suggests that, although CCSVI and MS have a strong association, CCSVI does not appear to cause MS.  Again, most researchers recommend more studies are required for a definitive answer.

The result of the initial research from Dr. Zamboni was a simple treatment technique aimed at eliminating the CCSVI and restoring normal blood flow through the compromised veins.  Take a look at the video at the bottom of this post for an illustration of CCSVI and the angioplasty surgery (often referred to as the “Liberation” Surgery).  People all over the world have had the Liberation surgery with varying degrees of success and failure.

Currently, Canada does not allow the Liberation Surgery, so Canadians have had to travel to Italy, Poland, India, USA, Mexico…and other countries to undergo what they hope will be a life changing procedure.  What will it take for Canada to start allowing, and hopefully funding this surgery?  More quality research!

Our team at Aim2Walk is always interested in issues that affect the lives of our clients.  We have a strong interest in CCSVI and have created a therapy protocol to maximize our clients’ outcomes following the Liberation surgery.  It is because of this protocol that we have been asked by the CCSVI Foundation of Canada to present at their Information Conference 2012 in Vaughn, Ontario on Saturday, January 28th.

We are interested in raising awareness and starting discussion on the topic.  The goal is to bring the issues related to CCSVI to the forefront so that more quality research can be initiated in Canada and that we can find more truths about the relationship between CCSVI and MS.

If you would like more information on this conference, or if you would like to attend, please click here.

– Matt


3 responses

    • Hi Nunzio, thank you for your question. Both MS and ALS share some symptoms (symptoms that are common with one of the diseases are usually rare in the other), but they are VERY different neurological conditions. As a physiotherapist, it is not my place to make a recommendation in regards to any CCSVI surgical treatment. The first step, though, is to be diagnosed with actually having CCSVI (Doppler Ultrasound) and consulting with a vascular surgeon as to the appropriateness of the procedure for you specifically. The research does indicate that CCSVI has been found in the ALS population, but whether or not the angioplasty surgery is an effective treatment option for ALS has not been widely researched. You can contact your local ALS society for more information (if you are in Ontario, Canada, click here)

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