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Second Canadian dies after contentious MS procedure
A second Canadian multiple sclerosis patient has died days after undergoing a controversial medical procedure outside the country.
Calgary resident Maralyn Clarke had sought the "liberation treatment" at a private clinic in California on April 13. The 56-year-old was suffering from massive bleeding in the brain hours after the procedure.
The treatment involves using balloon angioplasty to widen neck veins and increase blood flow from the brain. It's based on the hypothesis that MS is linked to blocked or twisted veins in the chest and neck -- a condition called CCSVI.
Clarke had been discharged from the clinic and returned to her hotel where, according to her husband, Frank Lamb, she complained of "one hell of a headache."
Lamb said that Clarke went to sleep. He tried unsuccessfully to wake her hours later, and then called 911.
She was rushed to hospital where Lamb was told she was suffering from bleeding in her brain. Clarke died in the intensive care unit after spending several days on life support.
Clarke's family provided CTV News with a DVD of the procedure, which shows her veins being treated and a catheter being inserted into her brain.
Scans sent to experts show nothing unusual based on the limited pictures given to the family.
After her death the coroner in Orange County said Clarke's death was due to natural causes. But there was no autopsy.
The clinic's treatment was not being documented as part of an institutional review board (IRB), which meant results were not recorded for medical literature.
About two dozen clinics are carrying out liberation therapy as part of an IRB under Dr. David Hubbard of the Hubbard Foundation, to determine whether CCSVI is linked to MS -- and what effect the treatment has.
"In my IRB, we would have known about (any potential complications) within 24 hours and we would have investigated it immediately," he said. "Because the people have the right to now."
In a statement, Lamb said his wife "was looking forward to the procedure as it was to improve her quality of life…. She was even planning to go back to work."
Lamb suspects that his wife's blood pressure issues may have contributed to her death. Clarke had been diagnosed with white coat syndrome, where patients experience high blood pressure in clinical settings. She had also been on blood thinners.
"My advice to other hopeful patients is that if your blood pressure is high, do not have the procedure done," Lamb said.
At least one other Canadian has died after receiving the controversial treatment.
Last fall, Mahir Mostic, a 35-year-old man from Niagara Falls, Ont., died months after undergoing the procedure at a hospital in San Jose, Costa Rica.
In Mostic's case, however, doctors inserted a stent, which is a small metal tube designed to keep a blocked vein open.
The new "liberation treatment" has not been approved yet in Canada, leaving MS patients seeking relief both desperate and confused.
Last week, Ottawa announced it will fund clinical trials of the treatment, which was pioneered by Italian researcher Dr. Paolo Zamboni in 2009.
Researchers in Canada and the U.S. are studying Zamboni's hypothesis.
With files from CTV's Medical Specialist Avis Favaro and Tom Walters