Expert care halts progression of a rare neurological syndrome

Angela and Brent Klusman

A normal life took a sudden turn when Brent Klusman experienced a strange tingling in his fingers and hands. His journey led to The University of Kansas Health System, where expert neurocritical care enabled Brent to take his first steps back toward the life he loves. Read Brent's story.

Neuromuscular Disorders

A breakdown of the peripheral nervous system

Neuromuscular diseases and disorders encompass a broad range of impaired functioning of the muscles. Symptoms and conditions will depend on what part of the body suffers from the breakdown of the muscles. A large portion of neuromuscular disorders will affect a person’s movements.

There are four major types of neuromuscular disorders.

  • Anterior horn cell disease causes a breakdown of the muscles of the spinal cord and includes such things as ALS and spinal muscular atrophy.
  • Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the communication system between the brain and spinal cord with the rest of the body is damaged and can result in relatively minor symptoms to extremely disruptive behaviors depending on what part of the body is affected.
  • Neuromuscular junction disorders affect the connection between the nerves and the muscles when the immune system attacks that junction. Weakened muscles, double vision and droopy eyelids can be attributed to a common neuromuscular junction disorder known as myasthenia gravis.
  • Muscular dystrophies occur when there is a breakdown or inflammation of the muscles.

Symptoms of neuromuscular disorders can include the following and will vary depending on what part of the body is affected:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of muscular control
  • Twitching, spasms
  • Muscle pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling sensation

The University of Kansas Health System is the nation’s leading research facility for neuromuscular disorders. Dozens of studies are being conducted at any one time, while the health system maintains a database of 5,000 patients who can be identified to participate in various clinical studies and trials.

The Peripheral Neuropathy Clinic at the University of Kansas Medical Center has been given designation as a National Neuropathy Center by The Neuropathy Association, a public, charitable, nonprofit organization established in 1995. The KU Medical Center clinic now becomes one of seven such centers located across the U.S. at major medical institutions. Read more.

Tools to determine the problem

Neuromuscular disorders and diseases can be genetic or acquired. They can be caused by circulatory problems or immune deficiencies and some are viral in nature. Testing might include:

  • Full neurological examination and observation
  • Electromyography (EMG), which records the electrical activity of the muscles
  • Testing chemical levels in the blood
  • Other diagnostic imaging

What can be done

While neuromuscular disease is often not curable, the symptoms often are treatable and can be managed effectively with drug therapies. All patients are seen by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, surgeons and nurses who specialize in neuromuscular disorders. Doctors at The University of Kansas Health System are among the leading researchers on the front line of determining the causes of these disorders and diseases.