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CCSVI for MS in the UK

‘Liberation procedure’ treatment for narrowing of veins in the neck for multiple sclerosis patients begins later this month as experts caution against Internet personal stories of ‘miracle cures’
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
doctor and female patient

12th October 2010 - The first CCSVI operations in the UK for multiple sclerosis patients - known as the liberation procedure - will take place in a private clinic in Edinburgh later this month. The angioplasty procedure to treat narrowed veins in the neck is being arranged by the Essential Health Clinic in Glasgow, which has already screened 400 patients for the condition.

Until now, UK patients have had to travel to clinics abroad for treatment, including in Poland and Bulgaria.

We talk to Glasgow GP Dr Tom Gilhooly who has arranged the scanning and treatment and seek reaction from other experts in the field about this new treatment.


Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) is a hot topic for people with MS. The theory is that multiple sclerosis can be caused by blockages in veins draining blood from the brain. If the blockages are cleared, MS symptoms may be reduced.

The idea was put forward by an Italian scientist, Dr Paolo Zamboni, whose wife was diagnosed with MS.

Zamboni investigated links between MS and iron deposits in blood vessels. He carried out ultrasound tests on blood vessels leading in and out of the brain and found that in a majority of people with MS, including his wife, the veins taking blood away from the brain were blocked or damaged. This was not the case in people without MS.

He further suggested that iron was damaging the blood vessels and allowing the heavy metal, along with other unwelcome cells, to cross the crucial blood-brain barrier, a process he called Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency.

Multiple sclerosis is the most common neurological condition among young adults in the UK, affecting approximately 85,000 people.

CCSVI - lack of evidence

Few clinical trials have been carried out to assess the CCSVI theory, so the treatment remains scientifically unproven.

More than 55% of 500 MS patients participating in the initial phase of a study at the State University of New York, Buffalo in the US exhibited narrowing of the extracranial veins, causing restriction of normal outflow of blood from the brain. However, the scientist who carried out the trial admits that neither the theory nor the treatment have been proved in large numbers of people.

Leading MS experts like David Bates, Professor of Neurology, Newcastle University, remain sceptical about CCSVI. “We know what happens when veins are occluded,” Bates tells us. “We see people who have this condition in the draining veins from the head. We know that apparent narrowings of these vessels are commonly seen and do not cause these changes of multiple sclerosis. Most importantly of all, multiple sclerosis is due to inflammation within the nervous system and the narrowing or slowing of fluid through a vein would not necessarily cause that.”

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