On October 8, the Vancouver Sun published an article reporting that a UBC-led study had cast doubt on an unproven medical theory called Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency, or CCSVI, which claims that constricted veins in the neck are the cause of Multiple Sclerosis. The article, like the study and theory that preceded it, is controversial: there is anecdotal evidence from many MS patients who have found relief after receiving an angioplasty procedure known as the “Liberation” technique, in which cervical veins are stretched and widened in order to promote better flow of blood from the brain throughout the body. The article states “…up to 5,000 Canadian patients (300 in B.C.) have gone to get the angioplasty at for-profit medical centres in the U.S. and elsewhere.” It goes on to list tragic outcomes as well: “Some patients who also had stents placed inside the veins to keep them propped open died as a result of complications.”
The article also included a feature on Jennifer Sweeney, 53, a speech language pathologist from Vancouver and MS patient who had recently undergone a CCSVI scan at AIM. Pictured holding the AIM MRI image of her jugular veins (left) on the front page of the newspaper, Sweeney, a communicator by profession, was an ideal interview not only because she writes about her experiences living with MS on her own blog, but also because she is still considering the Liberation procedure, regardless of the recent UBC study.
Two days after the article hit newsstands, Sweeney published an Op-Ed for the Sun entitled Link between venoplasty, MS needs more study, a personal and moving account of her journey with MS that began with facial sensations–some numbing, some very painful–back in 2005.
“It wasn’t until I had a brain MRI that the picture became clear,” she writes. “I had brain stem lesions that corresponded with all of my symptoms. Although the neurologist I was seeing didn’t look at the images, he still felt comfortable telling me I didn’t have MS because I had no changes in my reflexes or motor strength. But I knew I had MS — I had ordered a copy of the MRI and looked at the images. I had worked as a speech-language pathologist with adults who had neurological conditions. I was not naive. I knew what I was seeing.”
Curiosity about treatment options led Sweeney to investigate her own venous blood flow at AIM.
Of AIM, Sweeney says: “The consultation with Dr. Attariwala immediately after the MRI scan made me wonder why I didn’t just go ahead and book a private MRI in 2010. It would have saved me a lot pain and suffering and our medical system a lot of money by preventing two hospitalizations with an earlier diagnosis of MS. The open bore MRI scanner was comfortable and not claustrophic at all.”
AIM Medical Imaging is a physician-led clinic that strives to treat patients the way we would want to be treated when we are patients. We empower our patients through MRI, offering same-day consultations with our radiologist so they are able to go home with their questions answered.