To meet the demand of rising prevalence of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in the general population, Duke is expanding access to innovative disease-modifying therapies. Neurologist Christopher Eckstein, MD, now treats patients with MS at the Duke Center for Neurological Disorders at the Raleigh and Durham clinic locations.
According to a study funded by the National MS Society, nearly one million people in the U.S. are living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a prevalence doubling previous estimates. “Duke is making an effort to expand specialized MS care in Raleigh, which is more convenient for many patients,” Eckstein says. “With access to both clinics in Raleigh and Durham, we can generally see new patients in less than two weeks to expedite their care.”
Duke University Hospital has been named a Center for Comprehensive Care by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, recognizing the team’s coordinated, multi-specialty care. Some providers have been further recognized by the same organization as Partners in MS Care for their knowledge and expertise in treating people with MS.
Complex disease, expert care
As a complex disease with multiple, varied presentations, diagnosis can be challenging. “There’s no gold standard test to confirm MS; it requires a dedicated team putting together puzzle pieces, which are unique to each patient’s clinical picture and focal neurological symptoms,” says Eckstein.
For many patients, the varied presentation of MS can lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment. “It can take two to three years for patients to receive their MS diagnosis,” says Eckstein. “Getting to a specialist earlier can introduce appropriate, high-efficacy therapies to treat MS, better manage symptoms, and improve quality of life.”
Specialized team, treatment
The MS team at the Durham clinic location is comprised of highly trained specialists with expertise in MS diagnosis, treatment, and symptom management. This team includes six physicians, all subspecialty trained in MS and neuroimmunology, and is supported by a specialty trained MS nurse and physician assistants. A dedicated pharmacist and infusion coordinator also coordinate patients’ ongoing treatment.
Initial treatments usually involve immune therapy, using immunomodulators and immunosuppressants. Patients can receive IV therapies at Duke infusion centers, as well as through the team’s extended network of independent infusion centers throughout North Carolina. Once treatment is established, patients are typically monitored every six months to track ongoing disease activity and adjust therapy as needed.
Another important aspect of MS care is symptom management. “Fatigue is a common issue, as well as heat intolerance, bladder spasm, and vision problems,” says Eckstein. “Our MS group collaborates with multidisciplinary experts, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, ophthalmologists, and urogynecologists to improve patients qualify of life, functionality, and reduce disability.”
Advancing MS care
MS has been documented as the most common progressive neurologic disease of young adults worldwide. Women are two to three times more affected compared to men, but if can present in men as well as among any racial and ethnic group. Research is critical to advancing the care and treatment of a diverse patient population.
“We’re committed to improving MS care by building our MS translational research portfolio, leading as active members of the MS Society, and contributing to local organizations dedicated to improving the care for people living with MS,” says Eckstein.
To refer a patient to the Duke MS team, call 919-668-7600.