WEDNESDAY, March 8, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- An invasive multiple sclerosis treatment called liberation therapy is not only costly, it's also ineffective, new research contends.
Since 2009, thousands of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients have undergone the controversial treatment. Liberation therapy involves opening up narrowed veins from the brain and spinal cord.
However, many specialists have had doubts about the success of the procedure, the study authors said in background notes.
In this Canadian study, 49 MS patients underwent liberation therapy and 55 other patients received a sham procedure. One year later, brain scans, doctors' reports and patient self-assessments of MS symptoms found no differences between the two groups of patients.
"We hope these findings, coming from a carefully controlled, 'gold standard' study, will persuade people with MS not to pursue liberation therapy," said Dr. Anthony Traboulsee. He is an associate professor of neurology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Liberation therapy "is an invasive procedure that carries the risk of complications, as well as significant financial cost," he added in a university news release.
However, there are a range of drug treatments for MS "that have been proven, through rigorous studies, to be safe and effective at slowing the disease progression," Traboulsee said.
MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks the protective coating of the central nervous system. This leads to problems with movement, sensation and thinking. The causes of MS remain unknown, but research has pointed to genetic variations and environmental factors, including insufficient vitamin D, the study authors said.
The study was scheduled for presentation Wednesday at a Society for Interventional Radiology meeting in Washington, D.C. Reports presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on multiple sclerosis.