An article that appeared today in one of Holland's leading newspapers. I translated it to the best of my ability. Depressing
A blow to revolutionary MS therapy
An estimated 50 Dutch patients who suffer from MS, a CNS disease, underwent the procedure abroad, and 50 more who are on waiting lists in either Poland, Germany or Italy.
Desperate patients who suffer from a degenerative disease, are paying lofty sums of money. The German clinic, Private Scan, is recruiting Dutch patients thru a Dutch language website and is charging 1225 Euros for diagnosis. The procedure costs another 5995 Euros. The patients themselves need to bare the brunt.
But does the therapy work?
Physicians from the VUmc (Free University medical center) MS center in Amsterdam are skeptical. In fact they were skeptical from the onset about the therapy that was developed by the Italian vascular surgeon, Paolo Zmboni. But then again, Nobel prizes were handed before to individuals who at first were booed by the establishment.
For this reason Amsterdam scientists wanted to give the theory a fair review. This also happened due to pressure from patients who were enthused by the Italian who hit the pres last year with his much criticized treatment.
Meanwhile the VUmc scientists have completed their research into the biological probability of Zamboni’s approach. They can’t support his claims. “in fact, our findings undermine the foundations of the theory” said Bob van Oosten, a VUmc neurologist and Mike Wattjes, a VUmc Neuro Radiologist, during a presentation held for the patients who participated in the research.
Zamboni’s theory is revolutionary because it questions the widely held autoimmune theory by which immune cells assault the nervous system leading to progressive damage, paralysis, spasms etc..
But if we are to believe Zamboni, something different is at hand; he seems to have discovered that his wife, who also happens to be afflicted by MS, and 500 more MS patients were all suffering from Stenosis of their Jugular veins. This is what he claims is the cause of MS. The narrowing of the Jugular veins impedes blood flow from the brain and comes to a still stand. The mounting blood pressure causes blood to leak into brain tissue. This is the cause of MS symptoms.
Zamboni treats the root cause: He balloons the narrowed Jugulars which removes the blockage and allows the blood to flow freely. This results in the alleviation of symptoms.
This all sounds great. “But the truth of the matter is that there is n scientific proof to back this” says Dr. van Oosten. “So far Zamboni has only published one paper in which he describes the treatment of 65 patients with Angioplaty. There is no control group of patients who underwent a fake procedure. His findings are therefore not conclusive and the reported alleviation of symptoms could be ascribed to nothing more but a placebo effect.
Dr. Van Oosten’s critique goes further: “is it plausible that the majority of MS patients suffer from Stenosis while healthy individuals don’t? Zamboni may as well say so, but this kind of black and white scenario is not customarily seen in nature. Doctors at the Buffalo University of New York could not confirm this. They reported 53% with Stenosed veins and 23% for healthy subjects.
The Amsterdam research leaves even less of Zamboni’s clear cut distinction between MS and healthy patients. “We have images of the veins of 40 subjects: 20 MS patients and 20 healthy individuals, same age and same gender” says Neuro Radiologist Mike Wattjes. “This is called MRV or MR-Venography – a special application of MRI that gives a good picture of the veins. The images were evaluated by colleagues who did not know whom the healthy subjects and whom the MS patients were. 50% of al subjects appeared to have Stenosis, equally distributed among the MS and healthy subjects. Bottom line, we see no systematic difference between people with and without MS.”
This conclusion is bad news for Zamboni’s theory. But the researchers made an even more striking discovery: They set out to see whether blood stagnated or refluxed in brains of people with narrowed veins. Nothing of the kind seemed to be the case. Blood kept flowing freely despite the narrowing in the Jugular veins. “Such narrowing is thus not a pathology” concludes the Radiologist. “it’s just like red hair doesn’t need to be treated”.
But you can never know, many patients think. If it doesn’t do any good, it won’t do any harm either. Usually it is only arteries that are ballooned, not veins. Veins are thinner and more vulnerable than arteries and may therefore be easily damaged. “The procedure could cause infections that in turn cause the veins to narrow and block” warns Dr. Wattjes. “There is no research into this yet. We can not guarantee that the procedure is safe”.
In the medical literature there are two known cases of serious complications.