New treatment offering relief to some multiple sclerosis patients

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by Brandy Aguilar, Special Projects

azfamily.com

Posted on May 30, 2011 at 9:55 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 1 at 9:49 AM

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Patients with multiple sclerosis are finding relief with a new treatment, but not everyone in the medical community is so sure.

However, a Tucson man is behind it 100 percent.

“About four years or three years ago, I developed loss of dexterity in my left hand and a left leg foot drop,” Ryan Noreen said.

Add in vision problems and low energy and what Noreen has is multiple sclerosis. It’s an autoimmune disease affecting the brain and spinal cord resulting in loss of vision, muscle control and balance.

“When I get time, I go down to the gym and I think that's one of the few things that's really helped me,” Noreen said.

Exercise and medication help Noreen treat his disease, but the Tucson resident decided to put another treatment into the mix.

“I was hoping that there would be, if anything, just one possible positive benefit from the surgery,” Noreen said.

He had a minimally invasive procedure to unblock veins in the neck restricting blood flow out of the brain. A new theory by Italian doctor Paolo Zamboni says these blocked veins create iron deposits and lesions that cause symptoms of MS.

“Traditionally, MS has always been thought of as an autoimmune disorder and now it's hypothesized that this vascular problem contributes to MS and these plaque buildups,” Dr. Matthew Namanny said.

Namanny is a vascular surgeon in Tucson. He and another colleague have performed more than 100 procedures.

“We treat them with a balloon venoplasty, meaning we put a balloon inside the abnormality, inflate it and reopen that vein to allow improved venous outflow,” Namanny said.

But not everyone is a candidate. Noreen turned to Arizona Doppler Specialists. They're part of a small group of technologists across the country trained to screen for these vascular issues. 

“I did all of the readings of the Zamboni protocol and it's very difficult,” Arizona Doppler Specialists president Eric Feigenbutz said. “It's a different way of looking at the way blood flows through veins. And what they are is blood flowing in the wrong direction of the jugular veins and blood flowing in the wrong direction inside some of the veins intracranial.”

Noreen has had three procedures in more than a year.

“I noticed after the third surgery that my vision was better and that I had more energy,” Noreen said.

But not everyone in the medical community is behind this theory.  

“It would be wonderful if it shed some new insight into what causes MS,” said neurologist Jonathan Carter with Mayo Clinic Arizona. “At this point, our level of knowledge is not high enough that I would send my patients off to have the procedure done. I would want to see more data.”

“It's still a hypothesis at this point, but I'm hopeful that someday the research is done and that it does become shown to be a cure,” Noreen said.

9 p.m. EXTRA - MS Procedure
Dr. Matthew Namanny is at the Saguaro Surgical Center in Tucson. For more information, call 520-318-3004. Eric Feigenbutz is at the Arizona Doppler Specialists. Get more information by calling 602-368-1079 or going to azdoppler.com or the National MS Society.

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