Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI) surgery has long been a controversial topic in the multiple sclerosis world. As the theory goes, MS is caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain. Some physicians recommended as a treatment placing a balloon-type object into the veins in order to expand them, leading to increased blood flow.
Invented by an Italian doctor, the surgery as a treatment for MS is still illegal in the United States. In fact, in May, 2012ay of 2012, the FDA issued a warning about the potential dangers of CCSVI surgery. That said, many MS patients have looked to CCSVI as a lifeline in fighting MS.
But a new study debunks the theory. Researchers from the University of Rome Tor Vergata compared the brain blood flow of people with MS to healthy people. Of the 39 MS patients, 25 met the criteria for CCSVI. And of the 26 healthy people, 14 met the same criteria. The researchers used MRI to accurately assess the blood flow to the brain and found no differences between the MS patients and healthy subjects.
The study also found no link between the participants' blood flow to the brain and severity of MS symptoms. The researchers ultimately concluded that, though CCSVI may occur in patients with MS, it is not the cause of the condition.
In context, this pulls back the curtain on a mysterious – and largely misunderstood – aspect of multiple sclerosis. Some MS patients have traveled great distances and incurred great cost to have the surgery to increase brain blood flow where it is legal, though results have varied. Some maintain the treatment has been a great success, while others saw no significant improvement. This research, however, suggests strongly that CCSVI is not the cause of MS and that having surgery to increase blood flow in the brain is not an appropriate treatment.
This may deflate the hopes of some MS patients desperately seeking a cure. But it could also focus more research and financial backing on other promising treatments, such as stem cell therapy.
Dallas, Mary Elizabeth. (21 August 2012). "Study casts doubt on link between MS and vein trouble." Medline Plus. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_128456.html.