Multiple System Atrophy (MSA)

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Houston Methodist’s integrated team of MSA specialists provide leading-edge care — driven by research — to offer more patients the opportunity to enjoy a higher quality of life.

Houston Methodist is a recognized leader in managing and treating multiple system atrophy (MSA). Our world-class neurologists use the latest diagnostic technologies to identify and treat this rare degenerative disorder.

 Diagnosing & Treating MSA

How is MSA diagnosed?

Also known as Shy-Drager syndrome, MSA is a rare degenerative disorder that shares many symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s disease. To diagnose your condition, Houston Methodist MSA experts will talk with you about your symptoms. Patients typically experience deficits in their involuntary functions — such as blood pressure, heart rate, bladder function and digestion — as well as slow, deliberate movements, rigid muscles and poor balance.

Our neurologists will also perform physical and neurological exams, as well as tests to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms. Some of the tests we may perform include:


  • Blood pressure measurements, including a tilt table test in which we check your blood pressure in various positions 
  • Blood tests 
  • Bladder and bowel function tests
  • Brain imaging
  • EKG 
  • Eye exam
  • Muscle and nerve function tests
  • Perspiration test
  • Sleep evaluation


The results of your exams and tests will help us determine which type of MSA you have. Parkinsonian MSA reduces flexibility, balance, posture and speed, and it causes rigid muscles and tremors. Cerebellar MSA impairs movement and coordination, speech, vision, and the ability to swallow and chew.

 What treatment options are available?

Though there is not yet a cure for MSA, Houston Methodist's integrated neurology team is on the leading edge of therapeutic   innovations. We will create a comprehensive best treatment plan to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Treatment for MSA includes medications and behavior modifications to help manage and maintain your functional capabilities. We may recommend medications to raise and treat low blood pressure, along with drugs to reduce the Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Each patient responds differently to medication, and you may need to try a few options to find the most effective combination for you.

Depending on your symptoms, a range of other therapies may also help restore or stabilize your condition:


  • Heart pacemaker
  • Breathing tube 
  • Bladder catheter
  • Feeding tube or soft-food diet
  • Impotence medications
  • Physical and speech therapy
  • Sleeping with your head elevated

I need advanced care or a second opinion.

Houston Methodist is a national leader in MSA diagnosis, treatment and clinical research. Our specialists bring decades of compassionate expertise in movement disorder management. We educate patients and families on comprehensive treatment options, including clinical trial therapies  that are not yet widely available at other centers.

MSA symptoms and treatment needs change over time. Our integrated neurologists are part of a multidisciplinary team — we will partner with you to manage your unique condition every step of the way.

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Houston Methodist is leading the way in new research to find innovative treatment options.

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