Brian K. McWilliams Foundation

MS & CCSVI – How are they Connected?

Posted on: September 7, 2010

After Italian Researcher, Dr. Zamboni, made a ground breaking discovery about MS patients, MS and CCSVI have been the center of many medical and political discussions around the world. In Canada, political debate about CCSVI makes the news weekly, if not daily. Read more to learn about how MS and CCSVI are related.

Dr. Paolo Zamboni

In Northern Italy, Dr. Paolo Zamboni has developed an amazing theory that would turn the diagnosis and treatment of Multiple Sclerosis upside down. Dr. Zamboni was trained as a surgeon but a rare neurological disease left him unable to operate. But when his wife, began developing the symptoms of MS over a decade ago. He began a personal mission in hopes he could find help for his wife, for fear the disease would damage her ability to ability to ambulate, communicate, see, or worse.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) considered an auto immune disorder; where immune cells attack the nerves and brain. One of the hallmarks of the disease are the white spots that appear on brain scans; these are signs of active disease. But no one has ever conclusively proven what is the cause of MS.

MS, Iron Build-Up and CCSVI

For over a century scientists had found unusually high levels of iron in the brains of patients with MS. Most have assumed it was a by-product of the immune disorder, but Dr. Zamboni took a different approach. Drawing on a previously noted vascular component of MS, he used the high iron levels as a clue for something much more important. 

 He came to observed  that the iron deposits in MS patients developed directly around the veins, and so he concluded that this was probably a product of the dysfunction of the drainage of the brain.  Recognizing that iron build up can be very dangerous, and can cause cell death, inflammation and immune problems, Dr. Zamboni began scanning the veins of MS patients and made an important discovery. In patient after patient, he found the same thing, narrowing in the veins that drained the blood from the brain and chest.  In fact, Dr. Zamboni found that every single patient he tested with MS – not normal patients or those affected with other neurological diseases –  but with MS had the narrowing in the veins for drainage. This was a dramatic finding and a brand new condition, one he called CCSVI or Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI).

The Discovery of CCSVI is an incredible story of scientific discovery, love and hope. Here we explore part two of this journey and look deeper into Dr. Zamboni’s discovery and what it all means.

MS patients often have trouble to see, to stand, even to swallow. It is scary to watch how this debilitating disease takes over a patient’s body, especially when that patient is your wife. This was Dr. Zamboni’s reality. He wanted to help and help he has by giving thousands of MS suffers freedom, and hundreds of thousands hope .

Dr. Paolo Zamboni, made a scientific breakthrough when he discovered the stenosed or narrowed veins in MS patients, which causes a disturbance in the drainage of blood from the brain and chest resulting in a reflux of dangerous iron rich blood into the brain. He scanned MS patients and found the evidence of narrowing of the veins in the neck.  He called this condition CCSVI, or Chronic Cerebro-Spinal Venous Insufficiency, a true scientific breakthrough inspired by love of his wife.

He found blockages in either the two jugular veins or a large central vein that sits in the chest. Problems, Dr. Zamboni says probably take route before birth. When blood flow in these veins is disrupted, blood containing iron is pushed into the brains of these patients.  Dr. Zamboni identified a structural defect common in MS patients that could be a possible trigger for MS.

Dr. Zamboni Shares his Findings

Excited by his findings, Dr. Zamboni presented his findings to Neurologists. At the beginning Neurologists were very interested in the possibility but when Dr. Zamboni indicated that there would be a possibility to treat this associated condition, they were not as excited as Dr. Zamboni as if he was right, this would be a complete reversal of  the current thinking that MS is a brain disorder and an autoimmune disease. Dr. Zamboni’s work would suggest that MS may really be “at its route a plumbing problem in the veins with a possibility of a diagnostic test perhaps even a treatment to unblock these malformed veins.  But one Neurologist, Dr. F. Salvi was intrigued by this outside of the box approach and began sending his MS patients to Dr. Zamboni for testing. The images revealed narrowing in the veins, called strictures, and these findings were irrefutable.

Dr. Zamboni says many Neurologists he approached declined to join his research. That could be because it’s a complete reversal of conventional science that says MS is a brain disorder and an autoimmune disease.

For years doctors ( interventionists) having been using tiny balloons to open up blocked arteries, using a procedure called the angioplasty. Now Dr. Zamboni’s team, was applying this procedure to blocked veins and they began treating the veins of MS patients by clearing the blockage with an experimental treatment, termed the Liberation Procedure, but scientifically known as a venoplasty.  Dr. Zamboni describes that “treatment of a narrowing could be a good way for eliminating iron depositions, so dangerous iron stores, in the brain”. And from there, MS patients are lining up for his research studies.

The doctor inserts a catheter wire into the vein, and then inflates a tiny balloon at the site of the narrowing.  Once the balloon is removed doctors then watch the real time imaging which reveals a once narrowed vein with restricted blood flow, now has no narrowing and the blood flows down normally from the brain. The science of it is simple and yet ground breaking.

In a study with 65 MS patients, many saw a drop in the number of new brain lesions and in the nearly 2 years following the procedure 73% of patients had no more MS attacks.

Scientific Results of Dr. Zamboni’s Open Study:

65 patients participated, 90%+ correlation of CCSVI to MS reported.
Results reported showed a lasting positive effect of  angioplasty and 70% of patients were .without recurrence of symptoms 2 years post treatment.

Dr. Zamboni reported that “in the first 2 years, after the procedure, if you maintain no narrowing in your neck or chest veins, you do not have more attacks. And you do not have more active lesions on MRI.” This is an incredible discovery, and one which is being echoed around the world with further studies from the scientific world and hope from the MS community.


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