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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Every year, nearly 5,000 people in America are diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

In 1939, ALS received a lot of attention when baseball legend Lou Gehrig was diagnosed. In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge once again turned the spotlight on ALS. According to the ALS Association, 150+ active research projects have been funded since the challenge, translating into new hope for patients around the globe and right here at Ochsner.

Why the ALS Center at Ochsner?

The ALS Center at Ochsner offers comprehensive care for patients with ALS and related disorders. Our team represents many specialties and uses a collaborative approach to create personalized care plans.

Our center is modeled after the national guidelines for care that have been developed by the ALS Association of America. In addition, we collaborate with the Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter of ALSA.

The ALS Center at Ochsner has been designated as a Recognized Treatment Center (RTC) by The ALS Association.  

Our team consists of:

  • A neurologist
  • Advanced Practice Providers
  • Licensed clinical social worker
  • Pulmonologist
  • Speech language pathologist
  • Physical therapist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Dietician
  • Respiratory therapist

At Ochsner, we understand the challenges our patients and their families face every day. The goal of the ALS Center is to provide you with the highest quality of care and services in one place. The center allows you to be seen by all of specialists in one visit, helping to alleviate the difficulties of traveling to multiple appointments throughout the month. Your ALS coordinator/advance practice nurse will discuss symptoms and current issues ahead of the visit to determine which specialists you will need to see. Ochsner patients with ALS are seen by members of our team every three months, on the first and third Wednesdays of the month.

Diagnosing ALS

New patients often have already been evaluated by a neurologist and may have been told that they have ALS or another neuromuscular disease. ALS Center neurologists have extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of neuromuscular disease and conduct an initial evaluation of each patient. Diagnosing ALS requires physical and neurological examinations and a variety of tests to rule out other problems. The team at the ALS Center is here to offer diagnoses as well as second opinions.

Testing Available:

  • Blood and urine tests – Helps your doctor eliminate other possible causes of symptoms.
  • Electromyogram (EMG) – Evaluates the electrical activity of your muscles when they contract and when at rest. 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – Produces detailed images of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Muscle biopsy – Test to determine if you have a muscle disease other than ALS.
  • Nerve conduction study – Measures your nerves' ability to send impulses to muscles in different areas of your body. 
  • Spinal tap  – A a sample of your spinal fluid to look for infections or other issues