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Neuroscience Center

Neuromuscular Disorders

Neuromuscular disorders affect the nerves that control voluntary muscles. When these nerves are disrupted, it becomes difficult or impossible to control movements in the affected areas, such as arms or legs.

The Neuromuscular Clinic sees more than 2,000 outpatients a year. Specific diseases treated include: 

Most other patients have disorders of muscles or peripheral nerves; some have ataxia and spinal cord disorders.

The Neuromuscular Clinic is supported by the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), and is a designated ALS/MDA clinic. We provide a full range of services, including:

  • electrodiagnostic testing
  • medical, physical, and occupational therapy
  • respiratory and nutritional care
  • orthotics
  • social work services
  • medical and rehabilitation supplies
  • wheelchair evaluations

Neuromuscular Electrodiagnostic Testing

Electrodiagnostic testing can help establish a diagnosis for disorders affecting nerves and muscles. They also help distinguish between problems that are caused by peripheral nerves from those that are caused by a disorder in the central nervous system. The neurologists who perform our electrodiagnostic studies are all board certified and have extensive experience in testing and treatment of neuromuscular disorders.

Each year, 2,500 patients receive electrodiagnostic testing at the Neuromuscular Clinic. Available tests include:

  • electromyography
  • nerve conduction studies
  • repetitive nerve stimulation
  • single fiber EMG
  • quantitative sensory evaluation
  • autonomic testing
  • ultrasound (nerve and muscle)

Common Neuromuscular Disorders

ALS-Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Approximately 5,600 people in the US are diagnosed with ALS each year and it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time.

Although the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis, many people live with quality for five years and more. About 20 percent of people with ALS live five years or more, and five percent will live 20 years. There are people in whom ALS has stopped progressing and a small number of people in whom the symptoms of ALS reverse. ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries. It can strike anyone.

Muscular Dystrophy

The muscular dystrophies (MD) are a group of more than 30 genetic diseases characterized by progressive weakness and degeneration of the skeletal muscles that control movement. Some forms of MD are seen in infancy or childhood, while others may not appear until middle age or later. The disorders differ in terms of the distribution and extent of muscle weakness (some forms of MD also affect cardiac muscle), age of onset, rate of progression and pattern of inheritance.

Myasthenia Gravis

Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease characterized by varying degrees of weakness of the voluntary muscles of the body, usually during activity. It improves with rest. With current therapies, for the majority of individuals with myasthenia gravis, life expectancy is normal. Muscles often but not always affected include those that control eye and eyelid movement, facial expression, chewing, talking and swallowing; and sometimes those that control breathing and neck and limb movements.

For a referral to a Washington University neurologist or neurosurgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call .

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