UK HealthCare has teamed with Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital (OLBH) in Ashland to create a satellite multidisciplinary clinic for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The new satellite clinic began this month and its development is supported through a research grant from the ALS Association.
UK HealthCare conducts a multidisciplinary ALS clinic in the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute with many patients from the tri-state region in Ohio,
Kentucky and West Virginia traveling to Lexington to attend. During each clinic visit, patients are evaluated by a neurologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, nutritionist, respiratory therapist, neuropsychologist, mobility specialist, and nurse. At the satellite clinic, patients are evaluated by similar team of specialists as patients in Lexington, but on the campus of OLBH. At the end of the appointment, OLBH and UK HealthCare clinicians consult on the patient’s status via teleconferencing.
“Since ALS is a progressive disease, the needs of an ALS patient continually change making follow-up visits very important, but often very difficult to make,” said Dr. Edward Kasarskis, the Cynthia Shaw Crispen Chair for ALS Research and professor of neurology at UK. “Our hope is that this satellite clinic approach makes those visits easier to get to for both the patient and the caregiver.”
Kasarskis believes that through this clinic, his team will be able to reach 30 to 50 patients in the Ashland-Huntington region who may not otherwise be receiving regular checkups. “This satellite clinic has the potential of becoming a model that is adaptable throughout the country for treating these complex patients who live at a distance from the tertiary care ALS Center,” he said.
The satellite clinic takes place the second Monday of each month at the OLBH Sleep Lab on the hospital campus. “For patients and families affected by ALS, making a trip to the doctor for follow-up appointments can be difficult, time consuming and costly,” said OLBH neurologist Dr. Melissa Smith, who consults with patients at the Ashland clinic. “We appreciate our partners at UK HealthCare and the ALS Association for making this satellite clinic a reality that will greatly improve the lives of ALS patients in our area.”
ALS, also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, causes muscle weakness and atrophy throughout the body. The disease is degenerative and characterized by muscle paralysis causing difficulty speaking, swallowing, and breathing. According to statistics from the ALS Association, approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. The annual incidence of ALS is two per 100,000 people, and it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time. The life expectancy of an ALS patient averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis although approximately 20 percent of people with ALS live five years or more, 10 percent will survive more than 10 years and five percent will live 20 years.
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