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Missouri Hospital Key Treatment Center for Tourette Syndrome

Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City has been designated as a Center of Excellence by the Tourette Association of America. (Children's Mercy)
Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City has been designated as a Center of Excellence by the Tourette Association of America. (Children's Mercy)
May 23, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - One in 100 people has some form of Tourette Syndrome or TS, a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics.

It is estimated 200,000 Americans have the most severe form of TS, and as many as one in 100 exhibits milder and less complex symptoms, such as chronic motor or vocal tics.

TS usually sets in during childhood, affecting mostly boys of all ethnic groups.

At Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, pediatric neurologist Dr. Keith Coffman is co-director of the Tourette Association of America Center for Excellence. He says although the cause of the disorder isn't known, a lot of advances have been made.

Coffman notes there's no magic pill for TS, so each patient is treated individually for their symptoms.

"Taking more of a 'whole person' approach first and thinking about everything that can affect the child has really improved the quality of care, and therefore the effectiveness of care," says Coffman.

Children's Mercy was designated as a Center of Excellence by the Tourette Association of America, one of only eight facilities in the U.S. to receive the designation.

Dr. Bob Batterson, on the hospital's Developmental and Behavioral Sciences staff, says in the past Tourette was thought to only cause people to make involuntary movements and sounds, but now they know it can lead to other, more debilitating conditions.

"Statistics have shown that 85 percent of people with Tourette have a mental health condition, and somewhere around half of those people have at least two," Batterson explains. "A large number of people with Tourette have an obsessive compulsive disorder and ADHD as well. But depression is also common, and we have to wonder if some of that is that psychological impact."

Dr. Coffman says at Children's Mercy, they offer treatment therapy that includes teaching a patient how to control their involuntary movements. He says many patients report a feeling like they're going to sneeze prior to an attack.

"If you, when you feel that feeling, make your body do a movement that makes the tic impossible, and hold that body posture until that feeling goes away, you can actually reduce and eliminate tic without needing medication," says Coffman.

Tourette Syndrome sets in usually between 3 and 9 years of age, and often is better by the late teens or early 20s. Coffman says it's as common as autism or epilepsy, but doesn't get as much attention.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO