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.
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.
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.
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
Maintaining Quality of Life
While there is no cure for ALS, Ochsner provides treatments to help you live a productive and independent life for as long as possible. What’s more, our patients have access to future treatments through clinical trials.
Rilutek is the only medication currently approved by the FDA to slow the progression of ALS. Our team may prescribe additional medications to address the symptoms such as constipation, depression, excessive salivation and/or phlegm, fatigue, muscle cramps and spasms, uncontrolled outbursts of laughing or crying, sleep difficulties and spasticity.
Radicava™ (edaravone) is a treatment option for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that was shown to slow decline in the loss of physical function. Learn more.
Here When You Need Us
The ALS Center is located within the Ochsner Center for Primary Care and Wellness at 1401 Jefferson Hwy., just across the street on the north side of Ochsner Medical Center - Jefferson Highway. Convenient, free parking is available.
ALS symptoms include muscle stiffness, twitching and – ultimately – profound weakness. This results in increasing difficulty moving, swallowing, breathing and speaking.
The Ochsner Voice Banking Program was established as a way to record and preserve the voices of those diagnosed with ALS, after the ability to speak is lost.
The Ochsner Voice Banking Program is a volunteer initiative that was developed in 2016 and is run by students from the University of Queensland – Ochsner Clinical School. The medical students help people with ALS by recording their voices in a specialized audiology booth. Once recorded, the voices are sent to the software manufacturer, ModelTalker, which synthesizes each voice for future use on any computer device through typed commands.
Patient participants record over 1,600 phrases pre-selected from literature that account for many of the words people speak in a day over the course of approximately 10 studio session. Additionally, in their last recording session, they are able to preserve custom phrases that are personalized to them and their family, allowing them to keep the words they like to say, in the manner in which they like to say it.