Are vein blockages the trigger for Multiple Sclerosis?


Interesting research out of Italy is suggesting strongly that blocked veins in the neck preventing blood from draining out of the head is the trigger for the plaque formations that cause MS.

Multiple Sclerosis is a neurological, progressive disease where the insulating myelin sheaths that protect the brain and spinal cord are damaged, resulting in poor nerve conduction and messaging. Symptoms and disability vary significantly depending upon which parts of the brain and spinal cord are affected as well as the stage of the disease, but eventually sufferers develop cognitive as well as physical symptoms, including decreasing ability to walk, move and see. MS tends to strike young people more frequently than older, and women 2 to 3 times more frequently than men. MS has always been considered an auto-immune disease, where the body attacks itself, but why this happens has not been understood.

Well, Dr. Paolo Zamboni, a physician in Ferrara Italy, may have figured it out. His wife suffered from MS, and after treating her 4 years ago, she has not had another acute attack, and her MS symptoms are gone. Furthermore, he has treated a total of 118 MS patients since then, and 100% of them had dramatic improvements in their symptoms.

What Dr. Zamboni discovered was that all the MS patients that he examined via Doppler ultrasound had blockages in the veins in the neck that drain the brain or in the azygos vein in the thorax. When he looked at people that did not have MS, both healthy as well as those that suffered from neurological problems other than MS, none of them had vein blockages. When he used angioplasty to unblock the veins, right away after surgery his MS patients noticed differences in how they felt. Two years post surgery, 100% of those that did not have re-narrowing of the veins had no MS relapses. If there was a relapse, a re-narrowing of the veins was found. So it appears that narrowing veins are directly linked to the progression of the disease.

Veins are the pipes that return de-oxygenated blood to the lungs and heart. Veins are not pressurized by the heart pumping to keep them open like arteries are (arteries carry oxygenated blood to the brain and body), so veins will collapse with external pressure. If a major vein like the jugular vein in the neck is narrowed or closed and the blood cannot drain properly from the head, a back-flow problem can develop, where the venous blood is actually going the wrong way. So a situation occurs where blood is being pumped into the head, but has trouble getting out, pressure builds in the veins inside the brain, possibly forcing the blood into the gray matter, creating damage.

Dr. Zamboni found in post mortem studies of MS patients that the plaque lesions in the brain all had a vein at its center. And interestingly enough, the plaque lesions developed on the opposite side to the normal flow direction, suggesting that the blood was actually flowing the wrong way.

It is hypothesized that the inability to drain blood causes inflammation, excess iron deposition in the brain causing free radicals which kill cells, damaging the blood-brain barrier, and causing plaque lesions possibly triggering the auto-immune response in MS. For this reason, if this hypothesis is correct, it is vital that MS patients get their veins screened and cleared as early as possible after their diagnosis, so that plaque damage can be minimized.

However, this is still a very new idea, and many physicians either have not heard about this theory, or are not yet convinced that poor brain drainage may be the trigger for MS, so patients that want this treatment are having difficulty finding physicians that will do it.

More research is clearly needed to verify Dr. Zamboni’s results. Dr. Haacke, at McMaster University is setting up a study involving many Canadian cities and some American ones, so if you have MS, ask your physician if you can be a part of the study. Dr. Haack wants MS patients to send him their MRI. One thousand patients are also being sought for a study in Buffalo New York done by Dr. Robert Zivadinov.

The question I am left with, is why are the veins becoming blocked? The vertebral vein can easily be blocked due to its location within the transverse foramen of the cervical vertebrae. So if one of the cervical vertebrae is rotated or sheared the vein could be compromised. But the blockages seem to be more common in the jugular veins which sit outside the vertebrae. Can they become twisted or narrowed due to tightness in the surrounding fascia and muscle? Might therapeutic massage resolve the problem without the need for surgery? I don’t know, but the idea is intriguing.

If you want to learn more, see the full W5 show called “The Liberation Treatment” on CTV

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The Liberation Treatment: A whole new approach to MS W5, CTV, Nov. 21, 2009.

Zamboni, Paolo et al. The value of cerebral Doppler venous haemodynamics in the assessment of multiple sclerosis. J Neurol Sci. 2009 Jul 15;282(1-2):21-7. Epub 2009 Jan 13.

Singh AV, Zamboni P. Anomalous venous blood flow and iron deposition in multiple sclerosis. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2009 Sep 2. [Epub ahead of print]

Zamboni P et al. Venous collateral circulation of the extracranial cerebrospinal outflow routes. Curr Neurovasc Res. 2009 Aug;6(3):204-12. Epub 2009 Aug 1.

Zamboni P et al. Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency in patients with multiple sclerosis. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2009 Apr;80(4):392-9. Epub 2008 Dec 5.

Menegatti E, Zamboni P. Doppler haemodynamics of cerebral venous return. Curr Neurovasc Res. 2008 Nov;5(4):260-5.

Zamboni P et al. Inflammation in venous disease. Int Angiol. 2008 Oct;27(5):361-9.

Zamboni P et al. Intracranial venous haemodynamics in multiple sclerosis. Curr Neurovasc Res. 2007 Nov;4(4):252-8.

Schelling F. Damaging venous reflux into the skull or spine: relevance to multiple sclerosis. Med Hypotheses. 1986 Oct;21(2):141-8.

Copyright 2009 Vreni Gurd

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  1. Ted Hutchinson said,

    November 29, 2009 @ 9:00 am

    I found this research on MS fascinating.

    It’s really very exciting that there is possibly a way to prevent progression of MS and maybe stop it as soon as diagnosed.

    One of the interesting factors is the mention of Iron deposits in the brain (because of the poor venous drainage) accumulating and causing damage. This ties in with the way vitamin D improves mitochondrial function and the mitochondria deal with iron toxicity. This confirms the need for everyone (not just those with MS) to check their vitamin d status.

    It’s also interesting to speculate if programs such as Dr Davis’s Track Your Plaque would also be helpful for people with MS. Dr Davis relies on diet (wheat elimination) and use of effective strength vitamin D3, omega 3, magnesium, CoQ10, Niacin to improve blood flow and avoid the use of Angioplasty. It would be interesting to know if his approach to avoiding artery angioplasty also avoids venous angioplasty?

    The advantage of using a dietary approach rather than a physically invasive treatment is that the dietary approach would be tackling the problem at source whereas using an inserted balloon to stretch the vein to release the blockage and improve blood flow, is possibly going to be a temporary measure as the blockage could, over time reform.

    It also makes you wonder if people with a genetic predisposition for MS may have a congenital vascular malformation that over time causes this problem. If this is the case then it may be that surgical remodeling is required to prevent the condition recurring.

    I just hope they get on with it and try to make some progress.
    It was back in 1980’s they knew about Iron overload, and not long after the Vitamin D connection was raised. 30yrs later and most MS people still are vitamin D deficient and still have excess iron accumulation. It really is too bad. We’ve known 10,000iu/daily is a safe amount to take even in sunny countries as prolonged administration of 40,000iu/daily is require to build up status to critical levels, it costs next to nothing and if you are happy to lay naked in the sun it’s free, so why anyone with MS remains vitamin D deficient is beyond reason.

  2. Vreni said,

    November 29, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

    Hi Ted,

    The belief is that the narrowing is congenital or that the veins are twisted rather than that there is something inside the veins blocking them. Watch the W5 program if you have not already – you can see the veins and how narrow they are in places.

    I was thinking along the same lines as you were with respect to improving diet etc, and although that will certainly help improve health, it won’t untwist a vein or stop a tight muscle from collapsing it from the outside I don’t think.

    Dr. Zamboni used stents to keep the veins open in those he felt angioplasty would not last.

    I agree with you on the vitamin D – and I too find this sooo exciting!

    Thanks for commenting,


  3. Sharon Hoehner said,

    November 30, 2009 @ 4:20 pm

    I saw the show online the other day and must say it doesn’t come as a big surprise. I’ve seen quite a few people live symptom-free while using magnets. They increase circulation so in other words open up the blood vessels to allow more effective blood flow. The result isn’t permanent though.

    There may be some electrical issues going on. Some people can immediately stop using a cane when wearing magnetic insoles and immediately after taking them off cannot walk properly again. With others daily use will gradually improve balance.

    Some people are more affected in the neck area and others in the lower spine.

    I’ve heard of a few people doing mercury cleanses and having their MS symptoms go away or at least improve. Perhaps because the cleanse improves liver function and decreases cholesterol build-up as a side effect.

    MS seems to be a complex illness and this treatment seems very simple. It’s sure promising though to see that the results are lasting. I don’t like surgery and I would always suggest detoxing, improved diet (allergy tested diet) along with chiropractic, cranio-sacral and amalgam and root canal removal.

    Surgery presents new issues such as scar tissue that can block meridian flow and not cause a noticeable problem for years. Usually the problem is never connected to the scar.

  4. Joy said,

    December 3, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

    Love your blog, keep up the great work! I have passed this article on to a friend with MS. Thank you!

  5. Julie said,

    June 2, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

    2 points to add

    First – sorry to correct you Vreni however Zamboni has not used stents in any of his patients and does not recommend it. Stents are not designed to be used in veins and this was the problem with the ONLY 2 adverse side effects from treating ccsvi was the use of stenting.

    Second – you might all be interested in looking in Dr. Frederick Klenner’s treatment for MS. Klenner practiced in North Carolina in the 70’s. He treated and CURED MS using high dose vitamins – some orallly and some via injection and intravenous. I have spoken to someone personally who saw him in the 70’s and was in bad shape. He has been symptom free since using his protocol. My point is this – Dr. Klenner insisted on his patients using Niacin up to 4 times a day in large enough amounts to induce the ‘niacin flush’. So naturally, with all this talk about Zamboni and opening up veins for blood flow, I can’t help but wonder if Klenner’s protocol worked so well for so many patients because of the niacin flush and it’s effect on vasolidating the veins.

  6. Dean said,

    January 26, 2011 @ 5:45 pm

    Correction for you Julie,

    Dr. Z has admitted using a stent in an azygos vein of a patient but does not recommend thier use, particularly in jugular veins.

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