Multiple System Atrophy (MSA)

Multiple system atrophy (MSA), formerly known as Shy-Drager syndrome, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that results in the loss of nerve cells in the brain and spine. Its signs and symptoms affect the autonomic nervous system and multiple parts of the body – impairing mobility and the body's involuntary functions, including blood pressure, heart rate, bladder function, sleep, breathing, circulation, and digestion.

MSA affects multiple parts of the body and signs of the disease usually begin appearing when people are in their 50s. The symptoms are similar to those of Parkinson’s disease, but advance much more rapidly. It’s often associated with orthostatic hypotension, a type of low blood pressure.

MSA falls into one of two categories: Parkinsonism (MSA-P) or cerebellar (MSA-C). Which classification is diagnosed depends on which type of motor symptoms are most prominent when the initial evaluation is performed.

Research Advances

The lack of specific treatments to cure or slow the progression of MSA can be discouraging for patients. However, research has brought us closer to identifying the cause of MSA, which is the first step in advancing our understanding of the disease and finding a cure.

We are currently conducting a longitudinal study to track the effect of integrated treatment on the quality of life of MSA patients and their families. We are also in the process of starting new research trials that will culminate in a better understanding of and treatment for MSA over the next decade.

Why Choose UT Southwestern?

MSA is a complex disease to pinpoint and manage, which requires specialized ongoing care. 

Because symptoms of MSA affect multiple parts of the body, we offer a multidisciplinary approach to care, along with access to leading-edge therapies. Our team is led by a neurologist with specialized expertise in MSA, who collaborates with other physicians and health care professionals based on a patient’s needs.

Many patients require help with mobility, blood pressure management, and bowel and bladder function. Our team is skilled in providing assistance for patients – and, just as important, for families and caretakers, too.

Our Services

We will use a customized process to diagnosis and evaluate your symptoms. Tests include an autonomic study, which involves a tilt table test, blood tests, sweat test, and more.

We tailor treatment plans to your specific symptoms. Treatments include medications, physical therapy, speech therapy, and minimizing the impact of blood pressure fluctuations, as well as urinary, swallowing, and breathing problems. Learn more about treatments for MSA.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a multiple system atrophy specialist at UT Southwestern’s facilities in Dallas, or to learn more about our services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.