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Muscular Dystrophy Clinic Lets Patients Be Kids

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A new clinic at the University of Michigan Health System will allow patients with a type of muscular dystrophy to be seen by several experts in a single clinical visit. The clinic—the only one of its kind in the state, and one of only a handful around the country—opens Dec. 18.

Typically, patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy will have 20 or more doctor visits a year. The new clinic will make it possible for them to meet with all of their physicians on a single day.

“This will improve the patients’ experience because the children won’t have to spend all their time in doctors’ visits; they can spend their time being kids,” says clinic director James Dowling, M.D., Ph.D., clinical lecturer in the U-M departments of Neurology, and Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases.

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“The other major benefit is that bringing together all of the patients’ providers, from a health perspective, allows us to provide the best care.”

Dowling and his colleagues will offer the clinic once a quarter at first, and more frequently if the need increases. The clinic also will see patients with a less severe variant known as Becker muscular dystrophy. At the recently opened U-M Multidisciplinary Pediatric Neuromuscular Disorders Clinic, Dowling and his colleagues currently treat about 200 patients. About 40 of them have the Duchenne or Becker form of the condition and will go to the new clinic.

The clinic is sponsored by the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

Duchenne is an inherited muscle disorder that affects approximately one in 3,500 male births worldwide. It is usually recognized between ages 3 and 6 and is characterized by weakness and atrophy of the muscles of the pelvic area. As the disease progresses, muscle weakness and atrophy spread to the shoulders, trunk and forearms. Patients usually lose the ability to walk by age 12, and most patients will die by age 25, typically due to cardiac or pulmonary complications. There is currently no cure for Duchenne, but several medications and non-medicine therapies have been shown to improve quality of life and lessen complications.