As amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) progresses, patients with the neurodegenerative disease deal with loss of muscle function, and the escalating difficulties that come as a result. Visiting a number of different physicians and specialists can become nearly impossible as patients lose use of their arms and legs, and struggle with breathing and even the ability to swallow food.
Now, for the first time in El Paso, patients with ALS can take part in multidisciplinary outpatient clinics. The clinics will allow ALS patients to see a physician and — in the same day, in one location — receive occupational, physical, speech and respiratory therapy, as well as social services.
While there is currently no cure for ALS, this multidisciplinary clinic can help prolong the lives of ALS patients and improve their quality of life, said Dr. Darine Kassar, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine.
“After a patient sees all the specialists at the clinic, the team will meet at the end and have a treatment plan for the patient,” Dr. Kassar said. “Then we can anticipate things before they happen. For instance, if a patient has a breathing problem, then we don’t wait until that patient is in distress and has to go to the ER, where they will probably need to be intubated. Instead, we can anticipate that and see what the patient needs ahead of time. Then we can help them with noninvasive ventilation.”
There aren’t many people with ALS in El Paso, but formalized treatment has been missing for those patients, said Vinny Kaur, M.P.H., administrator in the Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso (TTP El Paso) Department of Neurology. These clinics will help ALS patients in El Paso access formal, multidisciplinary treatment in a coordinated fashion for the first time.
The multidisciplinary clinics are a collaborative effort between TTP El Paso and the Texas Chapter of the ALS Association. Clinics will be offered at 1 p.m. every second Wednesday of the month at the main TTP El Paso location (4801 Alberta Ave.). The first clinic was offered Wednesday, Nov. 8.