This is the first in a series of blog posts about multiple system atrophy (MSA), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and corticobasal degeneration (CBD). Pathway Hospice is committed to providing our compassionate care to patients and families struggling with these rare diagnoses. In future posts, you’ll meet the facilitator of an MSA support group, a hospice and palliative care doctor, and a patient who is under our care.

Of the four MSA clinics in the US, the Multiple System Atrophy Clinic at UT Southwestern Medical Center is the only clinic of its kind in the South. Two specialists trained in the treatment of these conditions are neurologists Dr. Steven Vernino and Dr. Padraig O’ Suilleabhain.

Dr. Steven Vernino is the director of the multidisciplinary clinic where he also directs the Autonomic Disorders Clinic. He specializes in evaluating, diagnosing, and non-surgically treating autoimmune neurological disorders, autonomic disorders, and neuromuscular disorders. He aims to improve the diagnosis and treatment of these diseases and helps to establish the field of autoimmune neurology. He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles.

Autoimmune neurological disorders are diseases of the brain, spine and nervous system caused by a misdirected immune response. Autonomic disorders affect the nerves that control unconscious bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, perspiration, digestion, and bladder and bowel emptying. Dr. Vernino is part of a group of neurologists nationwide specializing in diagnosing and treating these disorders.

Dr. Vernino notes “Because we see a lot of patients with these diseases, we’re able to pick up things that other centers may not. We also have a good idea which patients are going to benefit from which therapies, and we’re able to personalize the care we deliver.” He and his fellow physician-scientists conduct a great deal of research on the conditions they treat, thus advancing both the knowledge about them and the therapies used to manage them.

Dr. Vernino believes in the strong physician-patient partnership. “We’re in this together with our patients. To deliver the very best care, it’s important that we take the time to talk with them, help them understand what’s going on and why, and explain what the options are for doing something about it.”

Dr. Padraig O’ Suilleabhain is an Associate Professor in the Department of Neurology at UTSW where he specializes in the treatment of movement disorders. He treats patients with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, PSP, Tourette’s syndrome, and Huntington’s disease. Movement disorders cause abnormal voluntary or involuntary movements which are managed with physical therapies, medications, injections, and occasionally surgery. 

Dr. O’ Suilleabhain is an expert in the latest treatments for movement disorders. “We take advantage of the newest treatments available and the research opportunities to help our patients as much as possible,” he says. “I help my patients and their families navigate through these complicated conditions that can cause chronic difficulties and affect the individual’s function, physical presentation, and how they feel about themselves.” 

In the interdisciplinary PSP clinic, Dr. O’Suilleabhain’s focus is to address the symptoms and difficulties caused by this condition in a one-stop shop, so to speak. Patients and caregivers visit with a neurologist, rehabilitation physician, and a speech-swallow therapist. The objectives are to provide coordinated care in an efficient manner by consolidating these visits into a single 90-minute block, rather than multiple trips to different clinics. 

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