Ottawa man sees improvements after surgery to treat MS
Published Thursday, April 1, 2010 1:33PM EDT
An Ottawa man who has multiple sclerosis is experiencing immediate improvements after undergoing vascular surgery in Poland to help treat the disease.
Evan Thornton and his brother Duncan both have MS, the most common neurological disease among young Canadians.
The pair were inspired by a new approach to treat multiple sclerosis and travelled to Poland last week to undergo what's still considered experimental surgery.
"Nobody's saying that you go back to the way you were before you had MS. But the big thing for any MS patient is to stop the progression and I think that's what people are trying to get out of this surgery," said Thornton.
The surgery lasted about 25 minutes, opening up a vein in Thornton's neck. It was done without anesthetic.
He is now on blood thinning medication to ensure blood clots don't develop near the stent that's keeping his jugular vein open.
Improved walking, better circulation
Thornton saw improvements immediately. He can already walk better, and he has improved circulation.
"I've got warm feet, warm hands. That's been a big difference. That's what we noticed right from the beginning. Most people with MS, your extremities are ice cold in the morning," Thornton told CTV Ottawa.
Before the surgery, Thornton was taking one of five disease modifying therapies currently available to help slow down the disease. The treatment involved giving himself a needle every day.
Although he believes the drugs were helping him, the disease was still progressing -- affecting his ability to walk and type.
When he heard about a new approach to MS developed by Dr. Paolo Zamboni in Italy, Thornton jumped at the chance to learn more.
Zamboni's research suggests some of the symptoms of MS may be caused by blocked veins in the neck, which he believes leads to a higher density of iron deposits on the brain.
More research needed
Still, there is much to learn about the procedure and the lasting affects on patients who have MS.
Although patients who've undergone the surgery have experienced drastic improvements, doctors are unsure how long those improvements will last.
"We don't know what will happen after five or 10 years, so we cannot say for sure that it might be a treatment in the long-term," said Dr. Marion Simka, who performed the surgery on Thornton and his brother.
The procedure is not yet performed in Canada, where medical authorities are still studying Zamboni's research.
However, MS patients who want to have the surgery can travel to other countries, such as Poland, to pay for the procedure. Thornton paid $10,000 for the operation.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Norman Fetterley