July 1, 2003
SOURCE: Neurology, 2003;60:1955-1960
Researchers publishing in the most recent issue of Neurology find mixed results for a cooling therapy aimed at treating the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
MS is an inflammatory disorder of the central nervous system characterized by impaired nerve function. Doctors have long known elevated body temperature aggravates symptoms in MS patients, but only limited research exists on the usefulness of cooling therapies to relieve these symptoms.
In this study, researchers conducted an extensive trial involving 84 MS patients. All were evaluated for MS symptoms before and after undergoing first an hour of high-dose acute cooling and then an hour of low-dose acute cooling with a liquid cooling garment. Patients were divided into two groups. One used the cooling garment at home for one hour a day for one month, while the other did not. All the patients completed detailed surveys on symptoms. Following the one-month period, they were again assessed before and after the acute cooling sessions.
Researchers found few differences between the two groups, although the high-dose cooling did produce a greater reduction in body temperature when compared with the low dose cooling. Patients who underwent daily cooling at home also reported a slight reduction in motor and visual symptoms and less fatigue. All patients demonstrated some improvements after the acute cooling sessions, regardless of whether they received the high- or low-dose cooling.
Investigators note the study may be flawed because the low-dose cooling sessions were intended to serve as a placebo treatment, but instead ended up actually lowering body temperature as well, making it difficult to ascertain the true effects of cooling. Still, they believe the findings suggest there may be a role for therapeutic cooling in MS.
They write, "Given the lack of side effects observed in this study,
modest improvements demonstrated using objective measures of motor and
visual function, and persistent subjective benefits, cooling therapy could
be considered as a potential adjunct to other symptomatic and disease-modifying
treatments for patients with MS."
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