Northwestern Medicine multiple sclerosis program earns national designation

Mar 28, 2011

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable, often debilitating autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that affects more than 400,000 Americans. Patients with MS require specialized care that addresses the many physical and psychological impacts of their condition. Northwestern Medicine's MS program was recently recognized for providing exemplary care and is the first in the Midwest region to be designated as a National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) Affiliated Center for Comprehensive Care.

A collaboration between Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the program was founded in 1986 by its co-directors Bruce Cohen, MD, neurologist at Northwestern Memorial, and James Sliwa, DO, rehabilitation medicine specialist at Northwestern Memorial and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The program currently serves patients from across the Midwest by providing diagnostic and treatment services, as well as access to clinical research studies on manifestations and treatments of MS.

"MS is a disease that affects all aspects of the body influenced by the ," explained Cohen, who is also a professor of neurology at the Feinberg School. "The disease impacts human function in many ways; it's crucial to address all aspects of it to optimize therapy and quality of life for the individual. This designation recognizes our program's ability to comprehensively treat the disease and help our patients optimize their quality of life."

Northwestern's program was one of the first to provide a multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of the MS by combining medical, physical and rehabilitative strategies. Specialists in neuro-ophthalmology, neuropsychology, neuro-urology, neuro-otology, neuroradiology and psychiatry collaborate in the care of individual patients to address the symptoms of the disease. The program also has two full-time, dedicated nurses who are certified by the International Organization of MS Nursing (IOMSN). The affiliated MS clinic at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago provides disease-focused physical, occupational and speech therapy, orthotic assessment and implementation, and therapeutic programs to optimize function and quality of life for the MS patient.

"By combining the expertise and resources of multiple disciplines, we are able to offer a well-linked program that provides the best care to our patients," said Sliwa, who is also a professor in the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Feinberg School. "Patients receive active coordination between different aspects of care that addresses the whole person, not just the disease process. In recent years, medical centers are increasingly evolving to this integrated model of care for treating MS."

In order to be named a Comprehensive Care Center by the NMSS, programs must demonstrate MS expertise and experience, professional focus on MS including involvement in research and NMSS activities, and the ability to address all of the complex needs of someone with the disease. The three year designation requires a rigorous application process and site visit; Northwestern's program was designated on its first attempt.

Since meeting as residents, Cohen and Sliwa have seen firsthand tremendous advancements in the treatment of MS. "We began treating patients 25 years ago with only steroids, but treatment has really advanced since then with new pharmaceutical options that favorably alter the course of the disease, suppress acute symptoms and treat persistent symptoms," said Cohen. "Today, funding exists for research programs that are contributing to even better options for these patients. MS is on the verge of tremendous developments in rehabilitation therapies and new drugs to treat symptoms."

While MS is not yet a curable disease, research continues to provide significant advancements in its treatment and management. At Northwestern, investigators are currently engaged in trials for new therapeutic approaches, studies of cognitive function in early MS patients, and studies of changes in brain and retinal nerve fiber density as markers of disease activity.

As the physicians remain optimistic about the future of MS treatment, today they focus on providing a high quality of life for their patients. "Even without a cure for MS, it doesn't mean that we can't treat the patient and address all aspects of how their disease affects them," said Sliwa. "We strive to give our patients a full and active life, allowing them to maintain a full spectrum of normal activity."

Explore further: High disease load reduces mortality of children: Trans-generational defense mechanism in humans proved

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

If MRI shows signs of MS, will the disease develop?

Dec 10, 2008

With more and more people having brain MRIs for various reasons, doctors are finding people whose scans show signs of multiple sclerosis (MS) even though they have no symptoms of the disease. A new study published in the ...

Stem cell transplant reverses early-stage multiple sclerosis

Jan 30, 2009

Researchers from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine appear to have reversed the neurological dysfunction of early-stage multiple sclerosis patients by transplanting their own immune stem cells into their ...

Gene variant may increase severity of MS

Aug 02, 2010

A new study shows a gene variant may increase the severity of multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms. The research will be published in the August 3, 2010, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neu ...

Recommended for you

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

44 minutes ago

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.

Researchers see hospitalization records as additional tool

1 hour ago

Comparing hospitalization records with data reported to local boards of health presents a more accurate way to monitor how well communities track disease outbreaks, according to a paper published April 16 in the journal PLOS ON ...

Malaysia reports first Asian death from MERS virus

7 hours ago

A Malaysian man who went on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia has become the first death in Asia from Middle East respiratory syndrome, while the Philippines has isolated a health worker who tested positive for the deadly coronavirus.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Researchers see hospitalization records as additional tool

Comparing hospitalization records with data reported to local boards of health presents a more accurate way to monitor how well communities track disease outbreaks, according to a paper published April 16 in the journal PLOS ON ...

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.