Multiple sclerosis surgery: safety, options and risks

Multiple sclerosis surgery: safety, options and risks

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a lifelong medical condition in which the immune system attacks the protective myelin sheath that covers healthy cells in the brain and spinal cord. As the brain communicates with every system in the body in order to perform its functions, MS can have many symptoms that affect different areas of the body.

There is no cure for MS, but it is possible to treat it and live a long, healthy life. Treatment options may include behavior and lifestyle changes, medications, and nonmedical treatments such as physical therapy. In some cases, surgery may be an option.

Learn more about MS, surgical treatment options, when to talk to your health care provider, and more.

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Is surgery safe for people with MS?

Safety is a valid concern when considering surgical procedures for MS. People with MS are not at increased risk of complications from surgery. However, they may face unique surgical challenges such as:

  • infection and fever These are potential complications for anyone who has had surgery. For people with MS, infection and fever can worsen MS symptoms.
  • muscle weakness It is a common symptom among people with MS. This may make it difficult to recover from surgery, especially if you are unable to get out of bed and move around.
  • Anesthesia It is used during surgery as a medicine to sleep, relieve pain, or reduce sensation and awareness. People with MS who have trouble breathing may be at increased risk of developing complications from anesthesia.

Can surgery cause an MS attack?

MS can go between stages of high disease activity and symptoms (episodes) to stages of little or no symptoms and low disease activity (remission). A common concern about surgery is whether it can cause MS flare-ups.

Research shows that surgery does not increase the risk of flare-ups of MS. However, people with MS may have more difficulty recovering from surgery or complications due to MS and its associated symptoms.

Surgical treatments for MS

People with MS may consider surgical options to treat certain symptoms. For example, electrical treatments are used for bladder problems in people with MS, and this option can be surgical.

deep brain stimulation

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical treatment to place electrodes in the brain so that electrical charges can correct brain activity. This procedure can treat tremors (extreme shaking), which can interfere with daily life. Deep brain stimulation improves tremors in people with multiple sclerosis.

a few roots

a few rootsalso called eradication or neuropathyIt is a minor surgical procedure used to treat pain. It works by locating the nerves that communicate with the brain to signal pain and then burning the nerve fibers so they can’t send pain signals.

This option is effective in treating nerve pain among people with multiple sclerosis, but is usually used after other treatments have been tried because it damages the nerves.

Baclofen pump

Spasticity is a symptom of MS characterized by severe stiffness, and tightness of the muscles. Lioresal Baclofen is an antispasmodic drug that relaxes muscles. Treating spasticity in people with MS. It may also reduce pain caused by cramping.

Liorezal is an oral medication that has the following side effects:

People with MS can avoid the side effects of spasticity with a surgical procedure to implant a baclofen pump device. A pump is placed inside the abdomen and attached with a needle into the spinal canal to deliver a smaller dose of medication directly into the cerebrospinal fluid.

open blood flow

Percutaneous angioplasty (PTA), also known as release therapy, is a surgical procedure to open up blood flow. It works by placing a tube with a balloon on its end in the blocked area and then inflating the balloon.

This procedure was introduced as a treatment for MS because it was thought that damage to the nervous system of MS might be caused in part by problems draining blood from the brain and spinal cord.

PTA for MS

The safety of using PTA to treat MS is controversial, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned of safety concerns. Research has found that it does not improve MS outcomes, and therefore is not a recommended treatment option.

Surgery risks

There are risks with any surgical procedure. People with MS are not at increased risk of complications if they choose to undergo surgery; However, they may face challenges recovering from surgery due to MS symptoms such as muscle weakness and difficulty moving.

The specific risks of surgery depend on the procedure and the person receiving the surgery. Anyone considering surgery or other treatment options should work with their health care team to determine their risks and best options.

The benefits of surgery

The benefits of surgery to treat MS depend on the procedure. Everyone is different and may respond differently to treatments, including surgery.

Some of the potential benefits of surgical treatment options for MS include:

  • Baclofen pump: improve spasticity
  • deep brain stimulation: improve tremors
  • a few roots: Reduced nerve pain

When to talk to a health care provider

If you have symptoms of multiple sclerosis or are considering a surgical procedure to treat MS, you should see your health care provider. Getting treatment for MS is important to prevent the disease from progressing.

Symptoms of MS can appear at any time and vary from person to person. Some early and common signs and symptoms to look for include:

  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Bladder Challenges
  • changes in vision
  • fatigue
  • Muscle spasms or very stiff and tight muscles
  • Pain
  • Sensations such as numbness or tingling


Multiple sclerosis is a lifelong medical condition with symptoms that can interfere with daily life. Surgery is a viable treatment option for people with MS. Surgical procedures include deep brain stimulation, radiculotomy, and baclofen pump. Opening up the blood flow is not recommended because it is ineffective and may not be safe for people with multiple sclerosis. It is important to talk to your health care provider about any concerns about multiple sclerosis.

Word from Verywell

Considering surgical treatment of MS is an important decision. If you have MS symptoms that don’t improve with less invasive treatments or experience harmful side effects from other treatments, surgery may be a viable option for you. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you have surgery if you have MS?

    People with MS can have surgery. There are risks to anyone having surgery, and people with MS may face unique challenges in recovery. It is important to talk with a medical professional about the benefits and risks when making a decision.

  • How does multiple sclerosis affect anesthesia?

    In general, MS does not cause any additional risks to anesthesia. However, people with MS may have breathing challenges to begin with, which can lead to other risks with anesthesia.

  • What can trigger MS flare-ups?

    The etiology of MS flare-ups is not fully understood. External factors such as smoking, stress, and infections may increase the risk of disease flare-ups.

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