A prospective study of physical trauma and multiple sclerosis.
During an eight year period 170 multiple sclerosis (MS) patients and 134 controls without physical impairment were followed closely to record all episodes of physical trauma and to measure their effect on exacerbation rate and progression of MS. There was a total of 1407 instances of trauma, which were sorted into various categories. Overall there was no significant correlation between all-traumas and disease activity. There was, however, a statistically significant negative correlation between traumatic episodes and exacerbations in 95 patients who had exacerbations during the programme, due primarily to less activity of the disease during a three month period following surgical procedures and fractures. Electrical injury had a significant positive association with exacerbation using a three month at-risk period, but there were no other significant positive correlations in any other category of trauma, including minor head injuries; there were no cases of head injury with prolonged unconsciousness. There was no linkage between the frequency of trauma and progression of disability. MS patients had two to three times more trauma than controls.