Transverse Myelitis and Neuromyelitis Optica Program

The Transverse Myelitis and Neuromyelitis Optica (TM/NMO) Program encompasses clinical programs for patients, clinical research, and basic science programs across multiple departments. Our mission is to provide exceptional care for patients, accelerate clinical and basic science research, and educate current and future care practitioners. We have an immense collaboration with programs from our own institution and around the world. The Program is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of our patients and families who face their conditions with bravery and resolve every day.

Our clinical programs treat adult and pediatric patients with transverse myelitis, neuromyelitis optica, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, optic neuritis, and other autoimmune conditions of the nervous system. Our clinics offer comprehensive care for our patients with physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, social workers and staff. We see patients from North Texas and from around the world.

Research

An integral part of the TM/NMO Program is our extensive basic science research endeavors. TM and NMO have some unique features and some biologic processes that overlap with each other and other autoimmune conditions. Research labs at UT Southwestern have made breakthrough discoveries relative to the immune system's ability to suppress autoimmunity, antibody production by the immune system within spinal fluid, and the effect of medications on the immune system in patients. Furthermore, UT Southwestern launched the first comprehensive longitudinal study of transverse myelitis and neuromyelitis optica in 2012. This study is aimed at determining the underlying biologic events that lead to relapses and dictate the course of recovery in patients. In 2013, the UTSW and Children’s Medical Center TM Program was the lead site for the first federally funded grant to longitudinally study pediatric transverse myelitis.

Education

Fellows receive comprehensive training in the clinical evaluation and management of TM and NMO patients and related disorders. The complete range of immune-modulating therapies is employed, allowing the fellow to participate in varied treatment approaches and understand different rationales in managing patients with breakthrough disease.

Training emphasizes innovative symptom management of fatigue, spasticity, bowel and bladder dysfunction, sexual difficulties, mood disorders, pain, osteoporosis, vision changes and assistive device utilization; and the logistics of working within a multi-disciplinary team.

Participation in and design of clinical trials is encouraged, as well as matriculation through graduate level courses with formal didactic teaching on evaluation and design of clinical trials (UT Southwestern has the first NIH-sponsored Clinical Investigator Development Program headed by Milton Packer, M.D., formerly of Columbia University). Other opportunities in basic science research can also be arranged.

Clinical Programs

The UT Southwestern Transverse Myelitis/Neuromyelitis Optica program is partnered with the Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Center in a dedicated 6,000-square-foot clinical facility that is equipped with 11 exam rooms, two MRI consultation areas, a procedure room, a bone and bladder lab, an ocular motor physiology lab, an optic nerve facility, and extensive support personnel.

Our dedicated team is comprised of seven neurologists, six clinic/research nurses, two neuro-ophthalmology technicians, three physician-assistants, a nurse practitioner, and two dedicated social workers. During any given week, each member of our team is encouraged to engage in a myriad of activities consistent with an academic center of excellence: patient care, global disease management, teaching, writing, and research.

The Pediatric Demyelinating Disease Clinic was established in 2009 and provides inpatient and outpatient care to children and adolescents with multiple sclerosis, transverse myelitis, neuromyelitis optica, optic neuritis, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, and other autoimmune conditions. The outpatient clinic is located at the Children’s Outpatient Pavillion next to Children’s Medical Center. Clinics are staffed by neurologists, physician assistants, neuropsychologists, nurses, ophthalmology technicians, physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, and a school liaison. The Clinic is dedicated to the complex care that patients under the age of 18 require. The service also consults on patients admitted to Children’s Medical Center.