Study debunks 'liberation therapy' for MS, but some patients stand by it

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Study debunks 'liberation therapy' for MS, but some patients stand by it

Some patients aren't willing to give up on a procedure that widens neck veins in multiple sclerosis patients, despite a clinical trial in Canada that has debunked it. 

Doctors in Canada won't do the so-called 'liberation therapy,' a controversial procedure that surgically widens neck veins as a treatment for MS.

But some patients spend thousands of dollars travelling overseas to get it done in the hopes of living a better life. 

Jacquie Sivertson, a Saskatoon woman with MS, had the treatment several years ago, and said it gave her four and a half years of relief.   

"I had way more strength and energy. I just couldn't believe how I could go walking and walking," Sivertson said. 

Sivertson can no longer walk — she was diagnosed with cancer after getting the procedure and now is learning to walk again at the Wascana Rehab Centre. 

But for her and other patients, the liberation procedure wasn't seen as a cure, but as a way to buy quality of life.

Liberation therapy debunked

On Wednesday, the University of British Columbia released the results of a $5.5 million clinical trial on the liberation procedure. 

In a release, associate professor of neurology Dr. Anthony Traboulsee called the procedure an invasive one, that carries the risk of complications. In some cases the procedure has even lead to death due to post surgical complications.

Dr. Michael Levin is setting up an MS research lab in Saskatoon, to move the research in a different direction. 

He said there's promise in research involving bone marrow transplants, as well as new forms of medication that stop advanced forms of the autoimmunne disease. 

As for the liberation procedure, he said it's not worth the risk.  

"This was a really thorough, well thought out study, and at the end of 48 weeks, and at the end of almost a year everybody was the same and that shows it doesn't work," Levin said.