Carol Schumacher says she is finally able to walk without a cane and she believes her improvement is the result of a controversial treatment for multiple sclerosis. A year and a half ago she showed us images taken just before doctors performed angioplasty, and placed a stent in her jugular vein to increase blood flow to her brain.
"Before I had to have the cane and I wouldn't dare walk a block without it," said Schumacher.
The procedure is based on a theory called CCSVI, or chronic cerebrospinal venus insufficiency. Its backers believe the symptoms of MS are influenced by blockages in blood flow to the brain. One of its early proponents was Stanford surgeon Michael Dake, M.D., who spoke at a convention of interventional radiologists in San Francisco Monday.
"Many people now have come over to understand there is some association, it's undeniable, with MS and obstructions in the veins, draining the brain," said Dake.
In the last two years, interest in the procedure has become so intense, that clinics have sprung up across the country and overseas offering CCSVI treatment. But its effectiveness is still hotly debated, along with the theory of CCSVI itself. Several studies funded in part by the MS Society are currently underway, but supporters like Dake say large scale clinical trials are now needed to document whether the surgical procedure is having a measurable effect on patients.
"The ideal study that we all want is a randomized sham controlled trial, that at least in the short run can remove the placebo issue from the table," said Dake.
Dake says he now has funding for a CCSVI trial, which he hopes to begin later this year. Schumacher says MS patients around the world will be watching.
"We are just so anxious because we know that we're only going to be able to tell if this is effective and safe and helps people with MS, and other neurological diseases, if we do the clinical trials," said Schumacher.
Dake will be moderating a symposium on CCSVI Tuesday night, in San Francisco. It is open to the public.