Personal rehab helpful for multiple sclerosis

By Michelle Rizzo

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Results of a study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry suggest that an individualized rehabilitation program effectively reduces disability in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).

“Persons with MS are expected to have a normal lifespan and live for many decades with a range of problems,” Dr. Fary Khan, of the University of Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues write.

In order to assess the effectiveness of rehabilitation in MS patients, the researchers conducted a study with 101 patients who were randomly assigned to an individualized program or standard care.

Patients in the treatment group received comprehensive multidisciplinary rehabilitation over 12 months, which included intensive treatment aimed at patient education, health promotion, bladder retraining, and mobilization. Data from 98 patients were available for analysis.

Significantly reduced disability was seen in the individualized rehab group. Compared with patients who received standard care, those given individualized rehab showed greater overall functional independence as well as specific improvements in walking and self care.

Overall, 70.8 percent of patients in the treatment group improved, compared with 13 percent of those in the standard care group. More patients in the standard care group also deteriorated over the study period.

“The potential implication is that targeted rehabilitation programs in patients with MS are effective and patients should be referred for comprehensive assessment and rehabilitation treatment for specific disabilities (such as inability to walk, transferring skills, ability to self care, continence, etc.),” Khan said in an email communication with Reuters Health.

“These treatments should be individualized for each patient, and patients should be active participants in setting achievable goals with the therapy team and receive targeted therapy for specific disabilities over a set time frame,” Khan added.

“Our group is now looking at specific components of rehabilitation intervention such as type, intensity, and duration of specific therapies and modalities to determine what works within the ‘black box of rehabilitation’ in patients with MS,” Khan commented.

SOURCE: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, November 2008.

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