Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders Program
At our Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, we care for children and teens who have multiple sclerosis (MS) and several related disorders, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), acute transverse myelitis (ATM) and optic neuritis.
All of these conditions are “autoimmune” disorders, in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the central nervous system—the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. They damage myelin, the protective covering of nerves, so they are also called “demyelinating” disorders. ADEM, ATM and optic neuritis are conditions that typically occur only once. MS is a chronic condition.
MS and the one-time disorders can often look very similar. We carefully evaluate children to provide an accurate diagnosis, and then continue to provide close follow-up care.
At your first visit with us, your child will be evaluated by child neurologist Mark Gorman, MD, who will review your child’s medical history and conduct a thorough neurological exam. He may order additional tests to help diagnose your child’s condition, including:
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
In most children with MS, symptoms start in a “relapsing-remitting” course—attacks (relapses) of symptoms that go away (remit) and then come back.
We use a variety of drugs in order to:
- treat the attacks themselves
- prevent new attacks
- manage any symptoms that linger between attacks
We will watch your child’s symptoms closely and consider different medications if needed. We make every effort to keep symptoms in check so that your child can avoid unnecessary hospitalizations. At the same time, we choose treatment plans carefully to minimize side effects.
Coping with MS can be especially difficult for children and teens, and they sometimes have depression. The psychologist on our team can be a big help. See the Our innovative approach tab to learn more about how our program works to help children with the many different challenges they can face.
Throughout your child’s treatment, we stay in communication with your pediatrician. And because MS is a chronic disease, once your child reaches adulthood we will help him transition to adult specialists.
Testing and treatment for these attacks usually requires your child to be hospitalized for one to two weeks. After he is discharged, he may need to spend time at a rehabilitation hospital to work on strength and balance, or he may go straight home and work with a physical therapist.
These attacks are typically one-time events, but we will provide close follow-up to reduce relapses and ongoing symptoms.
Your child’s learning and education
Some children and teens with MS have cognitive problems, such as trouble with paying attention and learning. The neuropsychologist on our team performs specialized cognitive assessments to look for any difficulties, and our educational liaison can translate those test results into individualized educational recommendations. See the Our innovative approach tab to learn more.