Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Treatment at Drexel Neurology
Neuromuscular disorders affect your nervous system's ability to control your voluntary muscles, such as those in your arms and legs. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease) is a neuromuscular disease that causes damage to the nerve cells controlling voluntary muscle movement (motor neurons). Over time, individuals with ALS will lose movement in muscles throughout the body, including the muscles used in breathing. Learn more about ALS.
Diagnosing Neuromuscular Disorders, ALS/Lou Gehrig's Disease
Drexel neurologists will conduct a clinical examination and electromyography study to rule out all other possible causes of motor neuron damage in patients suspected of having a neuromuscular disorder like ALS.
An electromyography (EMG) test measures the electrical activity of a muscle. It detects any signs of blocking or slowing down of responses to nerve stimulation. An EMG provides information about the muscle itself and shows how well the muscle receives stimulation from the nerve. A nerve conduction velocity test is often done at the same time as an EMG.
An EMG is often used to evaluate unexplained muscle weakness, twitching or paralysis, and to find the causes of numbness, tingling and pain. During an EMG, a physician or technician inserts a very fine needle, which serves as an electrode, through the skin into the muscle. With the electrode in place, the patient is asked to slowly contract the muscle—for example, by bending the arm—with gradually increasing force, while the electrical activity is being recorded. Patients may feel some discomfort after the test.
Progression of Symptoms
In making a formal diagnosis of ALS, there must be a progression of the weakness over time with involvement of multiple areas in the nervous system. The areas that are evaluated include:
- Speech and swallowing (bulbar region)
- Arms and diaphragm (cervical region)
- Breathing (thoracic region)
- Legs (lumbar region)
Drexel Medicine's MDA/ALS Center of Hope: Expertise in ALS Treatment
At Drexel Medicine's MDA/ALS Center of Hope, patients are cared for by a multidisciplinary team that provides all of the services patients need in one convenient visit. Drexel Neurology's ALS care team includes doctors, nurses, research nurses, social workers, occupational and physical therapists, psychologists, and nutritionists. We possess extensive training and experience with the disease, and are focused on helping patients and their families adjust to the many challenges of managing this condition.
The MDA/ALS Center of Hope takes a multidisciplinary approach to the care of patients with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) in the Greater Philadelphia area. Patients receive comprehensive care from a team of health care professionals including doctors, nurses, researchers, social workers, psychologists, occupational and physical therapists, speech and swallowing therapists, and nutritionists, all in a single visit.
Every Drexel ALS specialist has been extensively trained to care for patients with ALS, and has the experience to provide superior patient care and support. Following each visit, our team meets to discuss the patient's status and determine whether the existing care plan is being carried out effectively and the patient's needs are being met. In addition to clinical care, the MDA/ALS Center of Hope is dedicated to advancing the understanding of ALS through research, and is supported through the MDA and the ALS Hope Foundation.
Drexel's ALS/Lou Gehrig's Disease Treatment Team
- Mary Paolone, MSRN, Nurse Manager
New and Ongoing Initiatives at the MDA/ALS Center of Hope
Through specific grants and donations, we have developed a library of equipment that is available for demonstration, education, and trial. Patients have the opportunity to try some assistive technology including access to computers and communication devices. We will also provide you with information on purchasing devices that can help you with environmental control and access. Most recently we have added iPads with software to allow communication.
The Center of Hope is active in the education of hospital staff caring for inpatients with ALS, as well as in outpatient clinic education. We are currently initiating several new educational programs, including educational videos about feeding tubes and ventilators, educational seminars in the form of webinars, conference programs, DVDs, and written materials.
Recent evidence suggests, due to behavioral and memory deficits related to ALS, people living with ALS may have more difficulty with compliance and decision making. We are now integrating neuropsychiatric testing with clinic visits to identify any problems as early in the diagnosis as possible. Drexel ALS specialists can initiate compensatory strategies and encourage decision making when patients are still capable.
Ongoing ALS Research
Research is critical to advancing the treatment of ALS and plays a central role in each patient's care. The MDA/ALS Center of Hope in Philadelphia has made great strides in understanding ALS.
For information about ALS research, contact Christine Barr, R.N., research nurse coordinator at 267-507-2633.
The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.