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Surgery Not a Relapse Risk for MS Patients

FRIDAY, July 26, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Surgery is safe for people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a new study finds.

"The idea that patients with MS might be at an increased risk of relapse following surgery isn't necessarily the case, so we need to be careful delaying important surgeries," said study first author Dr. Lindsey De Lott. She is an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.

Many doctors worry that surgery or anesthesia may increase the risk of MS relapse, and this concern can lead to delays in important surgeries, the researchers explained.

However, there's been a lack of study on the issue, the study authors added.

So De Lott and her colleagues looked at 281 MS patients, aged 18 to 75, who underwent a total of 609 surgeries, and found no significant difference in the rates of relapse before and after surgery. The rates were 7.1% and 5.5% per patient per year, respectively.

The study was published online recently in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal.

The findings should help doctors and MS patients make decisions about surgery, according to the researchers.

Study senior author Dr. Tiffany Braley, an associate professor of neurology and a multiple sclerosis specialist at Michigan, noted that the "vast majority" of her MS patients do well after surgery.

"In the rare instance when we have encountered a person with MS who developed neurological symptoms after surgery, the symptoms could usually be explained by a fever or infection, yet the limited research previously done on this topic did not take these factors into account," Braley said in a university news release.

The authors did note that MS relapse can take many different forms, and there's always a risk of over- or under-reporting patients' MS symptoms after surgery.

De Lott pointed out that "a relapse, or flare, can present as any neurologic symptom. It can include weakness in an arm or leg, loss of sensation, vision loss, problems with walking or coordination … it spans the spectrum."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on multiple sclerosis.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, July 2019

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