Neuromuscular Disorders and ALS
The movement disorder specialists at the Alan and Barbara Mirken Department of Neurology treat a broad spectrum of neuromuscular disorders, which are conditions that affect the nervous system outside the brain and the spinal cord. Several of our internationally renowned NYC neurologists specialize in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and EMG/nerve conduction studies, which measure the electrical activity of muscles and the nerves’ ability to send the electrical signals that affect muscle movement.
In keeping with the department’s compassionate, multidisciplinary approach to care, the ALS-Association Certified Center of Excellence at Beth Israel runs an extensive, weekly specialty clinic for ALS patients, which is the only one in Manhattan that is co-sponsored by the New York City Chapter of the ALS Association. In addition to supplying a wide range of complex and coordinated care to out patients, this comprehensive clinic generates a wealth of data that enables the department to participate in large, multi-center trials of ALS protocols, drugs, and supportive care that can lead to groundbreaking discoveries. The clinic also hosts monthly ALS support group on the third Thursday of each month for patients, family members, caregivers, and friends.
The expertise of our movement disorder specialists encompasses several other neuromuscular diseases and acquired conditions as well including:
- A wide range of neuropathies, including carpal tunnel syndrome
- Motor neuron disease
- Myasthenia gravis
- Inflammatory neuromuscular diseases like chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP)
- Neurological aspects of spine diseases, such as sciatica or radiculopathy
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Lambert-Eaton syndrome
- Nerve cell disorders
Diagnosing Neuromuscular Disorders
The primary diagnostic test for neuromuscular disorders is a clinical evaluation, which begins with a physical exam and a review of the patients’ medical history. The department, however, also specializes in electrophysiological testing of muscles and nerves, which provides critical information about their activity and the connections between them during periods of movement and rest. These procedures include EMG (electromyography), nerve conduction studies, and single-fiber EMG. This more comprehensive picture of neuromuscular function deepens the diagnostic understanding of a patient’s condition. Further diagnostic tests may include blood work, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and nerve/muscle biopsy.
Treating Neuromuscular Disorders.
All methods of treating neuromuscular disorders are available and include:
- Immunosuppressive medication to modify disease progression
- Medication for symptoms and pain management
- When appropriate, inclusion in clinical trials for new medications and protocols
- Bracing to rest nerves
- Nutritional intervention when necessary
- Breathing intervention when necessary
- Physical therapy to improve and retain function
- Occupational therapy to give patients adaptive living skills
- Practical and emotional support for the patient, caregivers and family, including various support groups and input from the department’s social worker
- Collaborative psychological and psychiatric counseling and evaluation, when necessary, to help patients with co-existing conditions (depression, anxiety) that can accompany neuromuscular disorders
- Referrals to other medical disciplines as needed (surgeons, for example)
- Ongoing care and follow-up. In fact, because of the chronic condition of neuromuscular disorders, the department attentively follows some patients for decades.
The Alan and Barbara Mirken Department of Neurology’s commitment to exceptional care for our neuromuscular disorder and ALS patients is demonstrated daily through its participation in groundbreaking research, investment in outreach efforts, and providing comprehensive, compassionate treatment that addresses the whole patient and not just one aspect of a person’s condition.