Multidisciplinary, Specialized Care for Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Emma Ciafaloni, MD


June 19, 2020

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a progressive, autosomal recessive neuromuscular disease caused by survival motor neuron protein deficiency. SMA has four phenotypes, characterized by varying levels of severity and age of onset. Types 1 and 2 are the most common and the most deadly, affecting children from birth to age 2 years. SMA is the leading genetic cause of infant death.

In this ReCAP, neurologist Emma Ciafaloni, MD, explains how novel gene therapies for SMA disrupt the pathophysiology of the disease. Use of these agents should be left to a specialist who has expertise in monitoring progression of SMA. Dr Ciafaloni is director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Clinic at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, where she leads a multidisciplinary SMA care team that includes a pulmonologist, pediatrician, physical therapist, orthopedist, and dietitian.

She recommends that pediatricians stay abreast of their state's position on newborn screening for SMA because research shows that early diagnosis and treatment can improve outcomes, including life expectancy and quality of life.


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