The Importance of Early Referral and Interdisciplinary Care in MS: Kathy Zackowski, PhD, OTR


The associate vice president of research at National MS Society talked about proactive and early referral to rehabilitation services to effectively manage multiple sclerosis symptoms from the outset. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

"Having an occupational therapist to go to and ask questions, [as well as to] try different strategies that might be really personalized to your particular situation can be really helpful to patients with [multiple sclerosis]."

Research shows that rehabilitation therapy is a beneficial aspect of care for patients living with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic debilitating disease characterized by demyelination of the nerves of the central nervous system.1 Rehabilitation therapy can assist patients with regaining or retaining function and improving their physical, mental, and social wellbeing. There are several forms of rehabilitation therapy currently available for patients including physical rehabilitation methods, such as balance and gait therapy, speech and respiration rehabilitation, and occupational therapy.

Studies reveal that the structure of the care team can impact patient outcomes, and that both in- and out-patient care settings may be beneficial, dependent on the patient's circumstances. Clinicians also recommend that patients have a multidisciplinary care team for rehabilitation and regular reassessment for managing changing symptoms. Research has demonstrated that the critical components of rehabilitation include the patients' participation in the intervention, goal setting with a multidisciplinary care team, and a guiding-light purpose for the patient, which focuses on recognition of their personal potential and obtaining improvements in a tailored plan.1 

Kathy Zackowski, PhD, OTR, associate vice president of research at the National MS Society, presented on assessment tools for physical medicine and rehabilitation in occupational therapy at the 2024 Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) Annual Meeting, held May 29 to June 1, in Nashville, Tennessee. At the meeting, Zackowski sat down in an interview with NeurologyLive® to discuss how early referral to rehabilitation services can impact the long-term management of MS. She also talked about some of the common MS symptoms that might be mistakenly attributed to aging or other conditions. In addition, Zackowskispoke about how communication between providers improves the rehabilitation process for patients with MS.

Click here for more coverage of CMSC 2024.

1. Iodice R, Aceto G, Ruggiero L, Cassano E, Manganelli F, Dubbioso R. A review of current rehabilitation practices and their benefits in patients with multiple sclerosis. Mult SclerRelatDisord. 2023;69:104460. doi:10.1016/j.msard.2022.104460
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