The treatment uses balloons — the type commonly employed to open blocked arteries in people with heart disease — to widen veins in the head and neck. The technique is based on the unproven theory that narrowed veins cause multiple sclerosis by stopping blood from draining out of the brain properly, which is thought to damage nerves and the fatty sheath, myelin, that insulates them. A vascular surgeon from Italy, Dr. Paolo Zamboni, is the leading proponent of the idea.
Researchers at the University at Buffalo recruited 20 patients with the disease to test the theory. Half were picked at random to receive the treatment, and the other half underwent a “sham” procedure in which doctors did not actually use balloons. The patients did not know whether their veins had been expanded, and neither did the people who assessed them later. The patients were monitored for six months.
There were no significant differences between the two groups in symptoms or tests used to measure the quality of life, the researchers reported last month at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in San Diego. In a few cases, brain lesions associated with the disease actually seemed to worsen after the treatment.
Dr. Adnan Siddiqui, who led the study, said the increased lesions were a sign of potential harm from the treatment. He said the results surprised even the researchers because they thought there might be some benefit. He emphasized that the study was small and needed to be verified by more research.
But based on the findings, he said, the balloon treatment should not be used except in studies that are carefully designed to find out whether there are any patients who might be helped by it.
Read about this in the New York Times in an article written by Denise Grady at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/02/health/multiple-sclerosis-balloon-therapy-fails-in-study.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
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