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Friday, April 15, 2011

Study shoots hole in 'liberation' theory for multiple sclerosis

By Carmen Chai, Postmedia News

American researchers have cast fresh doubts on the theory underpinning so-called 'liberation therapy' for multiple sclerosis sufferers.

A new University of Buffalo study suggests that chronic cerebral venous insufficiency (CCSVI), which is a blocking or narrowing of extracranial veins that some researchers claim causes MS symptoms, may be a result of MS and not a cause.

"Given the intense interest in the hypothesis that CCSVI is a possible cause of MS, independent evaluation of CCSVI was identified an urgent need," said lead researcher Robert Zivadinov, a University of Buffalo neurology professor and president of the International Society for Neurovascular Disease.

Zivadinov's study, published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, examined 449 patients — 289 people who had MS, 163 who were healthy, 26 who had other neurological diseases and 21 who had experienced a clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), an individual's first neurological episode.

According to Zivadinov, results showed that only 56.1 per cent of MS patients and 38.1 per cent of CIS patients had CCSVI.

"While this may suggest an association between the MS and CCSVI, association does not imply causality," Zivadinov said in a statement.

Meanwhile, 42.3 per cent of participants who had other neurological diseases and 22.7 per cent of healthy people in the story also had CCSVI.

"These findings indicate that CCSVI does not have a primary role in causing MS. Our findings are consistent with increased prevalence of CCSVI in MS, but substantially lower than the sensitivity and specificity rates in MS reported originally by the Italian investigators," Zivadinov said in the press release.

Paolo Zamboni, a doctor at the University of Ferrara in Italy, had argued that CCSVI increased the risk of having MS by 43 times. The vascular condition restricts blood flow to the brain, which could cause muscle weakness and loss of sensitivity, he concluded.

Canadians suffering from MS have travelled abroad to Bulgaria, Poland, Mexico and other countries for the controversial liberation therapy procedure, which involves opening blocked veins in the neck. The procedure, developed by Zamboni, is banned in Canada because it is not scientifically supported.

Last November, a Niagara Falls, Ont., man died after he received liberation therapy at a hospital in Costa Rica.

Canada has one of the highest MS rates in the world.

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