Capable and Compassionate Clinical Services
All of your ALS healthcare specialists in one cutting-edge center
Our multi-disciplinary team of ALS specialists work together to seamlessly and compassionately coordinate care, while our research team provides opportunities to learn about, and to participate in research.
The diagnosis of ALS can sometimes be challenging, especially since there are no blood, radiological or other diagnostic tests. Instead, the diagnosis requires the clinical judgement of an experienced neurologist with expertise in ALS and related disorders. Key to making a correct and timely diagnosis, is the combination of a careful medical history, a thorough neurological examination, electromyography (EMG) and the judicious use of other tests to rule out ALS mimics. The Neuromuscular Division at the University of Miami has several neurologists skilled in the evaluation and diagnosis of patients who may have ALS. These ALS specialists bring their expertise and compassion to the evaluation of patients in whom the diagnosis of ALS is being considered.
Second Visit Clinic
Hearing the news that one has been diagnosed with ALS is a life-changing event that raises a myriad of questions, many of which arise only after leaving the physician’s office. Patients and their families need swift answers to these questions. This led us to conceive the idea of a ‘Second Visit Clinic’, occurring within 7-10 days of receiving a diagnosis of ALS. This gives patients and their families a little time to begin to come to terms with the diagnosis, and then to quickly return to see our experts who will answer questions, begin to put in place a management plan, and to discuss research opportunities. An added benefit of the ‘Second Visit Clinic’ is that it ensures that newly diagnosed patients never leave the ALS Center without a concrete plan for early follow-up. Moreover, the structure of the ‘Second Visit Clinic’ ensures the initial diagnostic evaluation can focus on establishing and communicating the diagnosis, and to providing comfort to patients and their families.
The University of Miami ALS Center is home to an ALS Association Certified Center of Excellence that includes a multi-disciplinary clinic dedicated to the management of this complex disease. Our team of ALS specialists provide a wide range of treatments and services for patients and their families. Our services are coordinated to treat the evolving needs of the patient throughout the progression of the disease.
In addition to the traditional allied health professionals who staff our multi-disciplinary clinic, a somewhat unique aspect of our clinic is that it also includes a member of the research team who talks to every patient about ongoing clinical trials and observational studies. Our goal is to ensure that every patient who wishes to participate in research, has an opportunity to do so. For those who choose to enroll in a research study, we will endeavor to schedule study procedures on the same day as a clinic visit in order to minimize the burden of travel.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Clinic
The Importance of Multi-disciplinary Care
For people diagnosed with ALS the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and financial challenges can often become overwhelming. The progression of the disease brings new symptoms and difficulties. This increases the number of people involved in the critical care of the patient and their families.
A multi-disciplinary approach provides many advantages including the sharing of information, collaboration and holistic decision making. Clear communication among the care team and the effective coordination of required services is vital. The support of a team of connected specialists can provide exceptional peace of mind and an informed understanding for the patient and their families. Interconnected services greatly improve the continuum of care along the journey.
Today, the best ALS care is provided by multi-disciplinary teams. There is strong data that patients who are cared for by these teams experience significantly prolonged survival and a better quality of life. Further, medical complications appear to occur less frequently in the setting of multi-disciplinary ALS care. Various national ALS Care guidelines, including that of The American Academy of Neurology, state that multi-disciplinary care should be considered for all patients.
Coordinated Care for Changing Needs
A multi-disciplinary ALS Clinic employs various health care professionals from a range of disciplines who work together to optimize care for patients and their families. Neurologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, respiratory therapists, clinical psychologists, dietitians, social workers, and nursing care managers have important roles in addressing various aspects of the disease.
During a typical clinic visit, patients are seen by all these specialists, decreasing the burden of time and travel. Members of the care team meet after every clinic session, sharing their opinion and recommendations about each specific patient. This ensures a well-coordinated plan of action for all aspects of care.
Speech and Swallowing Pathologist
Mental Health Professional
Living with ALS is likely to bring psychological challenges for both you and your caregivers. Psychological counseling is an important part of the overall treatment plan. The psychologist evaluates mood and behavior, provides counseling, and offers advice regarding how to approach discussions with other members of the family and with friends. Young children within the affected family often have special psychological needs, and counselors can help the family understand these and work with the child to remain feeling secure during the course of the disease.
Breathing becomes impaired at some point in the ALS disease process. The respiratory therapist evaluates your respiratory muscle strength and function, and monitors these important variables regularly as the disease progresses. He or she also provides training in good airway hygiene, and counsels you on the use of adaptive techniques such as “breath stacking.” The respiratory therapist introduces you to the availability of non-invasive ventilation measures, as well as a cough-assist device, since a strong cough is essential for preventing airway infection.
Coping with ALS is challenging on both emotional and practical levels. Finding the support you need for coping with those challenges is often a significant challenge by itself. The social worker’s job is to help you obtain that support. He or she provides information about, and referrals to, community agencies for counseling, in-home care, and other important options. The social worker also helps you and your family to navigate insurance, disability, family medical leave, and other important issues related to finances and employment. The social worker will also discuss advance directive documents for medical decision-making and assist with end-of-life care planning, including palliative and hospice care.
Meet Our Experts
The UM ALS team of exceptional clinicians and researchers.
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Research Holds The Key
Comprehensive research is the pathway to understand and eventually cure this complex disease.