Introducing the Transverse Myelitis Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital

SRNA interviewed Dr. Elena Grebenciucova about the new Transverse Myelitis Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Grebenciucova completed a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and continued onto medical school while living in North Carolina. During medical school, Dr. Grebenciucova became interested in autoimmunity and the central nervous system and chose to proceed with a residency in neurology at the University of Chicago. During her residency, she was heavily involved in the care of patients with multiple sclerosis and rheumatological disorders affecting the central nervous system. It is there that she developed a focused dedication to the care of patients with multiple sclerosis and other rare autoimmune disorders, including autoimmune encephalitis. She then completed her fellowship in multiple sclerosis and transverse myelitis through SRNA’s James T. Lubin Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and soon thereafter relocated back to Chicago to join the MS group at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Dr. Grebenciucova’s research interests include safety of disease-modifying therapies in patients who are older, the concept of immunosenescence, and how it affects treatment responses and outcomes across the spectrum of autoimmune disorders. She has an additional interest in neurologic complications of HIV and the interface of HIV infection and autoimmunity.

Read more below to learn about this Center!

What is the Transverse Myelitis Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and what types of services can patients receive at your clinic?

The transverse myelitis clinic is our attempt to provide the most comprehensive standard of care possible to our patients diagnosed with transverse myelitis and other rare neuroimmune disorders. We are a team of experts in different fields, ranging from neuroimmunology, neurologic infections, neurosurgery, neurourology, pain management, spasticity management, physical therapy, sleep medicine, and neuropsychiatrists who understand some of the emotional issues that people with transverse myelitis can experience. By comprehensively providing the best standard of care in those areas, we try to have the most impact on the lives of those people who live with transverse myelitis and other rare autoimmune conditions.

What makes the Transverse Myelitis Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital unique in the world of rare neuroimmune disorders?  

A lot of times when you are a patient with transverse myelitis, you come to see a neurologist with symptoms of bladder urgency, spasticity, chronic pain, trouble with sleep, or sexual dysfunction. Sometimes a general neurologist will manage all of the above successfully, but sometimes they aren’t able to because the situation may be a little bit more complex and requires a higher level of expertise. Then, in those situations, people are being referred and sent out to another provider, and there’s potentially a disconnect between that neurologist and the other providers. In an ideal world, they would read each other’s notes or somehow communicate, but in the real world, it doesn’t always happen that way. The patient’s care may therefore then become disconnected. At Northwestern, because we are a team, we communicate with each other to try to avoid this disconnect.

For example, if I have seen a patient with transverse myelitis and I referred them to neurosurgery for an evaluation of spinal cord stimulator for pain management or to one of our physical therapists, these providers are going to communicate back to me and I’m going to be able to ask them questions and provide some feedback. This allows an actual discussion of the patient and their issues instead of a disconnect between providers. Our hope is that this provides better results for patients because all their providers are connected and on the same page.

What does the future of the Transverse Myelitis Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital look like? Are there services or additions you would like to make in the next few years? 

I am currently looking into pursuing some of the more integrative approaches to medicine. For example, looking at diet and how it may impact fatigue, cognition, pain, and spasticity. In the future, I would like to have a dietologist on our team. I would also like to bring more clinical trials to our clinic that potentially can be helpful to people with rare neuroimmune disorders.

Are you currently doing research? If not, what type of research most interests you in the world of rare neuroimmune disorders? 

We are currently starting some MOG antibody disease clinical trials and also conducting research looking at the outcomes of people with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder.

What would be the best way for someone reading this to contact your clinic and schedule an appointment? 

If you go to the Northwestern University Transverse Myelitis Clinic page, it will allow you to see how to contact me. The address and phone number are also listed below.

Address: 259 East Erie Street, 19th Floor, Chicago, Illinois 60611

Phone number: 312-695-7950