Vein-opening Treatment Deemed Safe for MS Patients

March 30, 2011

While angioplasty is best known for cardiac patients, opening veins to allow for better blood flow could be good for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients as well, according to a new study.

While angioplasty is best known for cardiac patients, opening veins to allow for better blood flow could be good for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients as well, according to a new study.

Researchers announced their findings from a retrospective study this week at the Society of Interventional Radiology's (SIR) 36th Annual Scientific Meeting in Chicago. For the study, 231 MS patients underwent endovascular treatment of the internal jugular and azygos veins. Some received stents, some didn’t. The procedure was deemed safe when performed in a hospital or outpatient setting.

“Our study will provide researchers the confidence to study it as an MS treatment option for the future," Kenneth Mandato, MD, an interventional radiologist at Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y., said in a statement.

About 500,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million people worldwide have MS, an incurable, autoimmune disease, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

This study did not evaluate the efficacy of treatment, just the safety. Researchers reported a 3 percent complication rate, with all but two patients discharged within three hours of treatment. Three patients experienced abnormal heart rhythm, and the treated veins in four patients narrowed again just after treatment.

Italian vascular surgeon Paolo Zamboni published a study in 2009 suggesting that chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI), where blocked veins from the brain and spinal cord diminish the flow of blood going to the heart, might make MS and its symptoms worse. Therefore opening up those veins could increase the blood flow and improve the condition.

The SIR issued a position paper last fall supporting clinical research to look at efficacy and safety of interventional radiology treatments for MS patients.

"This is an entirely new approach to the treatment of patients with neurologic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis. The idea that there may be a venous component that causes some symptoms in patients with MS is a radical departure from current medical thinking," said Gary P. Siskin, MD, FSIR, an interventional radiologist, chair of the radiology department at Albany Medical Center, and co-chair of the SIR research consensus panel on MS held last October.