Diagnosis and Treatment
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most complex, challenging, and unpredictable medical conditions seen by physicians in the United States. An autoimmune disease, MS strikes during the productive years of life. Approximately 350,000 North Americans are living with MS, and 12,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.
MS poses both diagnostic and treatment challenges for physicians. Diagnosing MS can be complicated because so many of the symptoms are vague or mimic other conditions. The symptoms of MS vary, but most commonly include weakness, numbness, fatigue, vision problems, slurred speech, poor coordination, pain, memory skills impairment, depression and bladder or bowel dysfunction. In severe cases, the disease can be characterized by partial or complete paralysis. Worsening or new symptoms are often hard to distinguish from non-MS symptoms or “weak link” dysfunction in areas of previous injury.
Approximately 85 percent of patients initially have “relapsing remitting” disease, with discrete attacks of neurological symptoms, or exacerbations, followed by either a complete or incomplete recovery. The great majority of these patients eventually convert to a secondary progressive clinical course, with relentless if slow accrual of deficits and few or no exacerbations. Fifteen percent of patients have “primary progressive disease” or a “progressive relapsing form” from outset. These forms of MS have been clinical diagnoses up to the present, but innovations in the use of MRI and serum/CSF biologic markers are radically altering our understanding of the disease. We use advanced imaging and laboratory methods to diagnose and triage patients into treatments which hold the best hope for arresting and treating their disease.
At the MS Comprehensive Care Center at USC University Hospital, our goal is to care for the total patient. Needs are identified, prioritized and incorporated into a care plan for timely and strategic intervention. Patients have direct access to a variety of specialists – all affiliated with the world renowned USC School of Medicine.
These specialists include neurologists, urologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, neuropsychologists, rehabilitation physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, work ability assessment and vocational training specialists, speech / swallowing / language therapists, nurses, social workers, recreation therapists, pharmacists, home care service providers and clergy.
As an affiliated center of the National MS Society, we are able to offer patients and their families ready access to our local chapter’s personnel, informational and networking resources. Case management strategies are designed to provide the most appropriate care in a seamless, coordinated manner. All members of the USC treatment team, as well as primary care provider and referring physicians, are able to share clinical information about the patient’s care and specific needs. Payor representatives and plan administrators have a “one-stop-shop” to refer and follow clients. We hope that such an approach to complex chronic care will optimize patient health and quality of life, and reduce cost.
Outcomes analysis, resource management, and risk assessment are under study at the Center. As a key component of our academic mission, we hope to demonstrate the resources required for MS patients at various states of disease, and to show how case management, early intervention and health maintenance strategies impact on the cost of the disease to the patient, payers and society.
We are continuously innovating our treatment regimens and performing them in a research setting, including clinical trials. Patients get state of the art therapy options, an advantage of our affiliation and close contact with the international community of MS care practitioners.