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Neuromuscular disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), muscular dystrophy (MD) and myasthenia gravis (MG), affect the nerve endings, or neurons, in the brain and spinal cord. Neurons control body movements by sending messages to the muscles. When neurons are damaged, however, they cannot send the right messages, and muscles weaken and eventually waste away. Although most neuromuscular disorders are incurable, treatment can help manage symptoms, relieve pain and improve quality of life.
The Indiana University Health Neuroscience Center has Indiana's most comprehensive care program for neuromuscular disorders. Our neurologists and neurosurgeons have decades of experience and use the latest technology to aid in the diagnosis of neuromuscular disorders. Through participation in clinical research, we provide faster access to advanced treatments. Our multidisciplinary approach and deep expertise ensures the most complete, sophisticated care for people with neuromuscular disorders.
The IU Health Neuroscience Center team has extensive experience treating a wide range of neuromuscular disorders, including:
- Friedreich's ataxia
- Muscular dystrophy
- Myasthenia gravis
- Trigeminal neuralgia
Our neurologists use the most current technology—including single-fiber electromyography (EMG) to detect nerve-to-muscle messaging—to confirm diagnosis of neuromuscular disorders. Single-fiber EMG is considered the most conclusive test for myasthenia gravis, which otherwise can be difficult to diagnose. The IU Health Neuroscience Center is one of the only centers in Indiana to provide single-fiber EMG.
Additional diagnostic testing includes:
- Blood test
- Spinal tap
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Muscle or nerve biopsy
- Nerve conduction studies
- Genetic testing
- Antibody testing
- Repetitive nerve stimulation
Our neurologists customize treatment plans to each patient’s unique situation and recommend services to help patients adapt to their condition. Care includes:
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy
- Adaptive devices
- Support groups
- Psychosocial therapy
Treatment for neuromuscular disorders focuses on managing symptoms and relieving pain. Comprehensive treatment may include medicine, to combat fatigue and muscle destruction, or in extreme circumstances, surgery.
Advanced procedures include:
- Surgery. When appropriate, surgery is performed to remove the thymus gland for treatment of myasthenia gravis.
- Microvascular decompression for treatment of trigeminal neuralgia. In this surgical procedure, a neurosurgeon makes a small incision just behind the ear and then uses tiny instruments to lift blood vessels off the trigeminal nerve root, relieving pressure. Neurosurgeons then insert a tiny implant, which acts as a cushion between the vessels and the nerve, to provide permanent relief. Neurosurgeons at the IU Health Neuroscience Center were the first in Indiana to offer this procedure.