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Vein-Opening Treatment for MS Stirs Controversy
Date:1/18/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Preliminary research and reports from patients suggest that a controversial treatment for multiple sclerosis can help relieve fatigue and other symptoms, but many physicians remain highly skeptical of the claims.

The debate started in 2009, when Dr. Paolo Zamboni, a vascular surgeon from Italy, published an intriguing study that suggested that a blockage in the veins that drain blood from the brain and spinal cord and return it to the heart might contribute to multiple sclerosis (MS).

Calling it chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI, Zamboni's theory was that the blockages disrupt the flow of blood from the brain and spinal cord, causing blood to back up and damage the brain and the spinal cord.

Zamboni began surgically treating people with MS with balloon angioplasty to open their veins. Other CCSVI researchers have tried stents, in which a wire mesh is placed in the vein to prop it open.

The methods of Zamboni and the others set off a heated debate among physicians and patients. Many MS physicians consider the claims utter hooey. But many people with MS, desperate for relief, pressed for research, and some, unwilling to wait, sought out physicians abroad who'd do the surgery.

Despite the skepticism, U.S. researchers began investigating venous blockage. In June, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society announced $2.4 million in funding for CCSVI studies, most of which are trying to answer the basic question of whether there is actually a link between venous blockages and MS.

Among those conducting CCSVI research is Dr. Michael Dake, a professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Dake followed 30 people with MS who had stents implanted to open their veins. Two months after surgery, they reported feeling 50 percent less fatigued than before surgery, Dake said. They co
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