Drugs Today (Barc). 1998 Mar;34(3):267-82
Stevenson VL, Thompson AJ.
Department of Clinical Neurology, Institute of Neurology, London, UK.
Management of the patient with multiple sclerosis (MS) encompasses a number of distinct, if overlapping, areas.
They include anticipation and prevention of problems, symptom control, drug therapies aimed at reducing disease activity and finally, rehabilitation and service delivery.
The recent advent of new immunosuppressant treatments for MS is extremely exciting.
Beta-interferons (1a and 1b) are now licensed worldwide and glatiramer acetate (Copaxane) is in use in the United States.
Many more drugs, including intravenous immunoglobulin, mitoxantrone, methotrexate and cladribine, are undergoing trials and some are showing promising results.
Future therapies with monoclonal antibodies and adhesion molecules are also undergoing extensive research.
Realistically, however, these new treatments aimed at reducing disease activity will have little impact on existing problems or the degree of disability.
Consequently, much of the management of a patient with MS relates to control of the vast array of symptoms.
These range from the obvious problems of weakness and spasticity, ataxia and sphincter disturbance, to less common but still important problems such as visual, cognitive, swallowing and respiratory difficulties.
Some of the most common, and to the patient most disabling, symptoms are fatigue, thermal sensitivity and pain, areas often neglected by the physician in the face of more obvious physical needs.
Much can be done for the patient in all areas.
A combination of education, physiotherapy and drug therapy is usually required but occasionally there is a place for more invasive treatments such as intrathecal baclofen administration for severe spasticity or thalamic surgery for cerebellar tremor.
A multidisciplinary team approach is essential in the overall management of the patient with MS, particularly when assessing their needs as a basis for both inpatient rehabilitation programs and in the provision of a comprehensive community-based service.