A hot issue in the MS community since last year, the Liberation Treatment was developed by Dr. Paolo Zamboni M.D., an Italian vascular specialist whose hypothesis that for some individuals with MS, symptoms may be caused by narrowing and torsion of veins that drain blood from the brain - chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency or "CCSVI" - is gaining further clinical support worldwide on a daily basis. The treatment involves surgery to restore appropriate circulation and is being provided at many clinical sites worldwide - but not yet in Canada.
Two streams of thought have developed on the etiology of MS - the conventional being the "neurological", and the emerging school being the "vascular". Physiologically, the neurological system and vascular system are intimately linked, however, research and treatment infrastructure in the MS community has been entrenched in the neurological and autoimmune aspects of the disease, and an emphasis on the vascular aspects is considered by many specialists to be an emerging theory.
Until recently, the screening test to determine whether an individual diagnosed with MS was a a candidate for the Liberation Treatment was covered by OHIP. This past week, the Ontario government's decision to recind OHIP funding for the screening test has had many MS patients and their families concerned. The surgery itself has been conducted by a Barrie physician, however, the physician was required to cease and dessist from providing the treatment on threat of a loss of license to practice medicine. Currently, in the absence of an OHIP-funded screening regime, patients may place themselves on waiting lists to undergo the screening test, which involves an ultrasound of the vasculature of the neck and upper chest, at a number of private clinics offering the test in Ontario; they no longer need to wait for a physician's referral. The direct cost to patients for the screening test is about $250. Individuals who are considered to be candidates for the Liberation Treatment must then select a treatment location outside of Canada, such as in the United States, South America, Europe, etc. and come up with funding for the surgery, post-surgical care, travel, accommodations and personal assistance on their own. Health Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Health appear to be awaiting results from Canadians undergoing these privately paid, internationally-conducted surgeries to determine any future actions on the issue. As part of their upcoming election campaign in New Brunswick, the Conservatives have committed to establishing a $500,000 fund to support those of its 1300 to 1800 inhabitants diagnosed with MS who would undergo the Liberation Treatment (see article here). Ontario's current government has opted out of funding clinical trials for the procedure (see article here). Meanwhile, the government of Saskatchewan is providing funding for clinical trials of the Liberation Treatment for MS patients, and we look forward to reviewing their results.
For more information on Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency in MS and to participate in an active, supportive international online community (nearly 4000 members at the time of writing this post), refer to the CCSVI Locator page at http://ccsvi-ms.ning.com/