Multiple system atrophy (often shortened to MSA) is a neurological disorder that begins in adult life and is characterized by parkinsonism, cerebellar ataxia and autonomic dysfunction in various combinations. Parkinsonism refers to slowness of movement with muscle stiffness and sometimes tremor.
Cerebellar ataxia refers to impaired coordination and is caused by degeneration of the cerebellum. Autonomic dysfunction causes orthostatic hypotension (a fall in blood pressure upon standing up), bowel, bladder and erectile dysfunction. Patients with MSA often also have problems with swallowing, speech and sleep (apnea).
Parkinsonism and cerebellar ataxia commonly occur in combination. However, one of these features may predominate. When parkinsonism predominates, the term striatonigral degeneration is often used. When cerebellar features are more prominent, the term olivopontocerebellar atrophy is frequently used. When autonomic failure is the most prominent feature, the term Shy-Drager syndrome is often used. Multiple system atrophy shares many of the signs and symptoms of Parkinson disease and, not surprisingly, is frequently misdiagnosed as Parkinson disease. Indeed, almost 10 percent of patients diagnosed with Parkinson disease turn out to have multiple system atrophy.
MSA affect men and women in equal numbers. There is no known cure for MSA.
The Center specializes in managing the autonomic complications of MSA in our out-patient clinic. We work with other physicians to provide comprehensive care for patients with MSA at all stages of the disease.
We have a number of research studies that are open and enrolling patients with MSA at the Center. The Team at NYU’s Dysautonoomia Center is part of a national consortium of autonomic sites throughout the US. As members of the Consortium, we provide assess to research studies in MSA. We also have an international registry of MSA patients. If you would like to know more about our clinical and research activities in MSA, please contact our Clinical Trials Manager Mr. Jose Martinez.