Multiple Sclerosis Center

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Affiliated with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Center offers the full range of diagnostic testing for the disease, as well as the latest treatments. Physical therapy, psychological support and education are important elements of the treatment plan. Patients benefit from the availability of specialists in other disciplines for consultation when necessary, and from the opportunity to participate in clinical research trials of the most current treatment options.

The mission of Winthrop’s Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Treatment Center is to provide patients with compassionate care and expertise in the rapidly expanding field of MS therapeutics, promote education about the disease and conduct research to develop increasingly effective and safe therapies that will diminish the impact of the condition on patients and families and enhance the quality of their lives. Since its inception in 1997, the Center has expanded steadily, now logging about 1,500 patient visits annually. Considered at the forefront of clinical care, the MS Center’s program has received recognition and accreditation from both the National and Long Island MS Societies. The Center’s team is actively involved in national, state and local organizations responsible for influencing the future direction of MS treatment. Paralleling the leadership example set by Dr. Gottesman, who serves on the Clinical Advisory Committee of the Long Island MS Society, Sharon Friedman-Urevich, RN, FNP, Coordinator of the Treatment Program, recently founded the Long Island MS Nursing Society, a professional organization whose members share information about clinical care for MS patients, and educate patients about treatment options. She also serves on the Clinical Advisory Committee of the Long Island MS Society.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disorder involving the central nervous system (CNS) — the brain and spinal cord. The most common chronic disease of the CNS in young adults, MS affects as many as 2.5 million people worldwide, with women affected more often than men (National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 2011). MS destroys the myelin, the membrane that “insulates” nerve cells and enhances nerve impulse conduction. Although the cause is unknown, considerable evidence indicates that an abnormal immune system renders the CNS vulnerable to attack — in error — by the body’s immune defenses. The attack, which focuses primarily on the myelin, interrupts nerve impulse conduction. New research has shown that nerve cells may also be injured — sometimes in the early stages of disease. The cumulative loss of myelin may lead to long-term disability, making early diagnosis and initiation of treatment essential. Today, advances in treatment and research are bringing new hope to MS patients.

Symptoms

Since myelin damage is not limited to one area of the CNS, each patient can exhibit a variety of symptoms ranging from mild — numbness in the limbs — to severe — paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity and specific symptoms are unpredictable and vary with each individual.

Diagnosis

Usually a detailed clinical history and physical examination, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and blood tests, are sufficient for diagnosing MS. Occasionally, additional specialized testing is needed. All necessary tests can be conducted at Winthrop-University Hospital.

Importance of Early Diagnosis & Treatment

While there is no cure for MS at this time, current treatments can help stabilize the disease. The medications are most beneficial when administered early in the course of the illness. Therefore, it is imperative to obtain an accurate diagnosis and initiate treatment as soon as possible. The term Radiologically Isolated Syndrome (RIS) is a new designation that refers to patients who have an abnormal MRI suggestive of MS but no clinical symptoms. The term Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS) refers to the first time a person has symptoms suggestive of multiple sclerosis. Individuals who experience RIS or CIS may, or may not, develop MS. The results of several well designed clinical trials support treating CIS early, which may delay the development of clinical disabilities. The treatment of RIS is an area of active research.

Treatments

Currently, there are many different FDA-approved treatments for MS. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) recommends beginning treatment with one of the appropriate therapies as soon as diagnosis is confirmed, since the drugs help to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks, diminish the accumulation of lesions in the brain, and slow disability progression. In addition to medications, many other therapies are available to treat symptoms such as spasticity, pain, bladder problems, fatigue and weakness. Patients should consult MS specialists in order to develop individualized treatment plans to manage their disease.

Research

The Winthrop Comprehensive MS Care Center is involved in many ongoing clinical research trials, including participation in the New York State MS Consortium since 1997. The Center has participated in many major research trials that have contributed to the development of new therapies for multiple sclerosis.

Mission Statement

The Winthrop Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Care Center is committed to assisting the patient and family in coping effectively with Multiple Sclerosis. It offers a comprehensive, multidisciplinary and humanistic approach to treatment and care, acknowledging the complex and variable nature of the disease. Our goal is to improve the lives of people with MS and their families through research, education and superior care. We have been recognized by the National MS Society since 2000 as a center for comprehensive care, providing services that address the varied and often complex issues related to living with MS.

Support Groups

Groups will meet monthly on one Wednesday per months and will be facilitated by Lucia DiSpirito, LMSW, Neuroscience Social Worker. Meetings may occasionally include speakers.

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MS Team:

  • Malcolm Gottesman, MD, Director of the Comprehensive MS Care Center, Division of Neurology
  • Lorraine Martone, RN, BSN
  • Denise Grueneberg, RN
  • Sharon Friedman-Urevich, DNP, FNP-BC, RN MS Treatment Program Coordinator
  • Kim Byrnes, Senior Research Coordinator
  • Lucia DiSpirito, LMSW, Neuroscience Social Worker

If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call 516-663-4525