Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Lou Gehrig's Disease

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Duke's ALS Center is one of 100 centers in the world dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. With a hopeful and optimistic approach, our team collaborates to maximize your quality of life and life expectancy.

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Comprehensive Care for ALS

Learning you have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, can be overwhelming. We understand, and we are here to help.

When you first come to our ALS Center, you will have a comprehensive evaluation to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out the possibility that you have another condition. If we confirm your diagnosis, we provide a range of services from drug therapies and clinical trial access, to occupational, speech, nutrition, respiratory and physical therapy. Our goal is to help you live as full and normal a life as possible.

Our Locations
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Treatments

Medications

Riluzole extends ventilator-free survival. Medications for muscle cramps, constipation, pain, depression, and other symptoms may also be prescribed.

Therapy

We offer physical, occupational, respiratory, and nutrition therapy delivered by an in-house team of therapists who have experience working with ALS patients.

Adaptive Equipment

You may need assistive devices to aid in daily living, and to help you maintain independence. We work directly with you and our preferred vendors to help you get the equipment you need, and help you learn to use it.

Social Work

A social worker works closely with you, your family and the rest of your care team to help navigate life with ALS. We assist families with everything from obtaining benefits to providing emotional support.

Nutrition

A nutritionist helps you overcome obstacles that prevent you from maintaining a healthy diet, as well as deal with various eating challenges associated with ALS.

Communication and Swallowing Therapy

Because ALS affects both communication and swallowing, our speech pathologists help you either improve your verbal speech production, or identify and use an augmentative and alternative communication device.   We can also evaluate your swallow abilities and recommend ways to make swallowing safer and easier.

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Tests

Our doctors conduct a thorough evaluation to ensure that an ALS diagnosis is correct. As no one test can diagnose ALS, we base our diagnosis on a clinical examination and by ruling out all other diseases - a process known as a differential diagnosis. In addition to a thorough neurological examination, blood and lab tests, your evaluation may include:

Electromyogram (EMG)

A needle electrode is inserted into muscle to measure the electrical activity of muscles at rest and when contracted. May be performed in conjunction with a nerve conduction study, which is performed by attaching electrodes to your skin. Several quick electrical pulses are given to the nerve, and the test measures the time it takes for the muscle to contract in response.

Spinal Tap

A needle is inserted into your lower back to collect a sample of the fluid that surrounds your spine and brain (cerebrospinal fluid).

MRI

Uses magnetic field and radio waves to create a picture of the structures in your body. May be performed to rule out spinal cord or brainstem disease.

Myelogram of Cervical Spine

Contrast substance (sometimes called "dye") is injected into the fluid within the spinal column to create X-ray images of your spinal cord and spinal nerves.

Best Neurology, Neurosurgery in North Carolina
When it comes to your care, you want the very best. Duke University Hospital's nationally ranked neurology and neurosurgery program was named best in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.

Why Choose Duke

Shared Decision Making
We work closely together, and in partnership with you and your family, to identify the best treatment options and to make highly personalized recommendations for you.

Teamwork
At each visit, you and your family meet with various experts including neurologists, nurses, social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, nutritionists, speech pathologists, and clinic coordinators. This in-depth specialized care yields the best results in the treatment of ALS.

Clinical Trial Access
We have an active research program that often includes clinical trials for new medications to slow ALS, or improve symptoms associated with the condition.