Norton Neuroscience Institute is the leading provider of neurological care in Louisville and Southern Indiana, with specialists providing advanced care for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
ALS is a progressive motor neuron disease affecting the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Progressive degeneration of the motor neurons causes them to die, and the brain loses its connection to muscles. The result is a lack of muscle control. This “disconnection” then causes the muscle to lose neuron nourishment and stimulation, resulting in muscle atrophy.
There is no cure for ALS, but care from a range of medical specialties focused on your case can extend functionality and survival.
Extending Functionality and Survival for ALS Patients
The Norton Healthcare ALS Multidisciplinary Clinic brings together specialized neurologists, respiratory therapists, dietitians, occupational therapists and other health professionals.
The ALS Multidisciplinary Clinic also helps patients with primary lateral sclerosis (PLS). Directed by Mark P. Bazant, M.D., neurologist with Norton Neurology Services specializing in ALS, the clinic provides supportive care as well as medication.
The clinic provides solutions that can help with breathing and swallowing. The clinic also can help with simple or high-tech solutions to help ALS patients communicate.
Many patients are able to share quality time with their families and others with the clinic’s help.
What Is ALS?
With degeneration of the motor neurons that carry signals from the brain to the spinal cord and out to the muscles, the brain loses the ability to initiate movement. That means it becomes increasingly difficult to speak, eat, move and breathe.
Only about 5% to 10% of ALS cases are inherited. In the vast majority of cases, the cause is unknown. ALS affects about five out of every 100,000 people worldwide.
ALS usually affects people between the ages of 40 and 70. ALS recognition increased significantly after the disease shortened New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig’s career in 1939.
More recently, physicist Stephen Hawking lived more than 50 years after his ALS diagnosis, dying in 2018 at age 76.
The board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists at Norton Neuroscience Institute have the experience to diagnose ALS.
There is no single test or procedure to diagnose ALS. Experienced specialists, however can rule out other diseases that mimic ALS to make an accurate diagnosis.
A physical exam usually includes an extensive strength and endurance exam. A patient with ALS may have an abnormal gait. Reflexes are often abnormal in that they will be increased at the joint and reduced in the gag reflex. Some patients may have trouble controlling episodes of crying or laughing, often called “emotional incontinence.”
Your physician will conduct diagnostic tests to pinpoint your condition. Tests may include:
- Neurological exam
- Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV)
- Blood and urine studies
- Spinal tap
- X-rays, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Myelogram of the cervical spine
- Muscle and/or nerve biopsy
ALS Multidisciplinary Clinic
Norton Cancer Institute – Downtown
676 S. Floyd St.