Frequently Asked Multiple Sclerosis Questions

Explore Multiple Sclerosis FAQs

Wondering where to find information about multiple sclerosis? What questions should you ask your neurologist about MS? Shepherd Center has compiled a list of multiple sclerosis FAQs to help you find the answers you need. Learn more by exploring the topics below.

What are the operating hours for the MS Institute at Shepherd? Back

8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. We are closed during most national holidays.

How do I schedule an appointment? Back

You can schedule a new or follow-up appointment by calling the MS Institute scheduler at 404-352-2020.

What services does the MS Institute at Shepherd offer? Back

It's hard to find a more comprehensive list of neurological and rehabilitative services than those offered at Shepherd Center. Patients receive state-of-the-art medical care from our neurologists inside one of the nation's leading rehabilitation hospitals. These services include:

  • Aquatics classes
  • Bracing clinic
  • Clinical research opportunities
  • MRI
  • Neuropsychological services
  • Nursing care: medical and rehabilitation
  • Occupational therapy
  • Pain management (Shepherd Pain Institute)
  • Patient and family educational counseling
  • Physical fitness program
  • Physical therapy
  • Recreation therapy
  • Rehabilitation day program
  • Seating clinic
  • Speech therapy
  • Social work / case management
  • Urology clinic
  • Vocational counseling

How do I know what MS services I will need? Back

During your appointment, you will be evaluated by a neurologist and/or MS nurse — individuals who are experienced in MS treatment and rehabilitation. They will recommend only the services that will benefit you. Following this evaluation, you and your treatment team will design a customized plan that allows for maximum results at minimum cost. It is important to share with your treatment planning team any physical or emotional concerns that you have. You should always feel free to request services and make suggestions.

Should I continue seeing my family doctor/ primary care physician? Back

We recommend that all Shepherd Center patients have a family doctor or primary care physician who is close to their home for easy access and routine medical care.

A family doctor/primary care physician can check and treat your general health problems, such as weight control, colds, flu, skin rashes, bladder infections and other infections.

Your family doctor/primary care physician can also oversee your general medical care and provide referrals to specialists as needed. Many insurance plans require that you have a primary care physician. Please read and understand your insurance benefits carefully.

What if I live outside the Atlanta-metro area and need MS treatment? Back

Many of our patients live outside the Atlanta area. Usually, we can set up treatment closer to your home for infusions, therapy, etc. (This may depend on your insurance coverage.) Having a good relationship with a local family doctor/primary care physician or neurologist is beneficial in coordinating care outside of Georgia.

Who are the MS Institute neurologists? Back

Our neurologists are active members of professional organizations including the National Consortium of MS Institutes. They have extensive experience in the management of multiple sclerosis. Together, they provide care to a growing number of people with MS throughout the southeast.

All of the professionals working in the MS Institute have specialized training and experience in the treatment of MS. The MS Institute at Shepherd also has three MS Certified nurses on staff.

Do I have to stop seeing my current neurologist or doctor? Back

The MS Institute welcomes the opportunity to coordinate care with your current physician.

What is an MS attack (relapse)? Back

A relapse is defined as a new or worsened neurological symptom lasting as least 48 hours. There should not be an underlying fever or infection, as these may worsen symptoms.

Is an MS attack (relapse) an emergency? Back

MS attacks (relapses) are unexpected and can alter your ability to participate in some activities. Although attacks should be reported to your neurologist for documentation and possible treatment, they are not considered a medical emergency.

In very rare cases, an attack can cause difficulty breathing or inability to empty the bladder. These cases are considered emergencies – go to the nearest emergency room. If you do not have transportation or are having difficulty breathing, call 911 or your county's emergency ambulance number.

What do I do if I have a health concern or think that I am having an MS attack (relapse)? Back

The MS Institute has a nurse assigned to answer your phone calls Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 404-603-5031. Calls received after 4 p.m. will be returned the next business day. If you are having an emergency, please call 911 or go to your local emergency room.

Please note that calls made in the afternoon may be returned in the early evening. When the Center is closed, a neurologist is on call for neurological problems that cannot wait until office hours.

Can I come to Shepherd Center for emergencies? Back

Shepherd Center does not have an emergency room. We offer specialty neurological and rehabilitation services that require appointments. If you are having an emergency, call 911 or go to your local emergency room.

We also recommend that you have a family doctor or primary care physician (PCP) near your home for minor emergencies such as bladder infections, colds or flu.

Is a bladder infection considered an emergency? Back

An untreated bladder infection can lead to high fevers (101 or above), vomiting and worsening of MS symptoms. If you have a high fever and/or severe vomiting, go to your family doctor/PCP or nearest emergency room.

What do I do if I suspect I have a bladder infection? Back

If you suspect a bladder infection, call your family doctor or primary care physician (PCP). Many people with MS have problems emptying their bladder. This can lead to bladder infections. The symptoms of a bladder infection are: fever, blood in urine, pain or burning when urinating or catheterizing.

To treat a bladder infection, a test must be done on your urine. This test is called a culture and sensitivity (C&S) and will show the doctor which medicine will work best on your infection.

Can I bring my urine specimen to Shepherd for testing (C&S)? Back

Shepherd Center can perform a urine culture and sensitivity if your doctor has given a written order for this test. Call your family doctor/PCP or urologist if you suspect a bladder infection.

If you do not have a family doctor/PCP or urologist, call the MS Institute at 404-352-2020 and ask for the nurse. The nurse will determine if your symptoms require a urine specimen.

If an order is given by your neurologist or family doctor/PCP for the test, please schedule an appointment for the urine test by calling the scheduler at 404-352-2020.

How can I get my Foley or suprapubic (SP) tube changed? Back

We encourage patients who have an indwelling Foley or suprapubic have a family member or significant other trained to change and maintain the catheter. If this is not possible, your physician may recommend home health services to change the Foley or suprapubic in the home.

The frequency of these tube changes is very different among patients. Some patients may need changes every 2-4 months and others require a monthly change. Please remember to keep an extra catheter at the home in case the tube becomes plugged and must be changed.

What do I do if I need disability papers filled out, or need a letter sent to an employer or insurer? Back

Bring any forms that the physician needs to complete to your scheduled visit. Please allow at least four weeks before the date the papers requested are needed.

How do I obtain my medical records for disability or other needs? Back

The Shepherd Center Health Information Management (Medical Records) Department will gladly release medical records per your written request. A release form may be downloaded here, obtained while at the Center or by calling Health Information Systems directly at 404-350-7493.

Is Shepherd Center associated with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society – Georgia Chapter? Back

Yes, we work closely with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society – Georgia Chapter and offer community education sessions, aquatics classes and other programs, which are sponsored by the NMSS – GA Chapter.

Do you offer a custodial care program for adults with MS? What about respite care? Back

Shepherd Center does not offer a custodial care program for nursing or maintenance care. We provide outpatient and inpatient treatment to increase individual independence and safety on a specific goal-oriented basis.

However, Shepherd has added respite services for people with MS. This service is offered on a private pay basis at Shepherd Pathways in Decatur. For additional information, discuss this option with the case manager or Shepherd Center admissions at 404-350-7345.

Can I have my lab work drawn at Shepherd Center? Back

We are happy to perform your lab work, BUT your insurance plan may have restrictions regarding where you are authorized to go. Please remember to check with your insurance regarding the preferred laboratory site prior to have any lab work done. This is important so that your insurance pays for the testing.

How do I find out about my blood work / lab results? Back

If you have your lab work done at Shepherd Center, your physician will review these results. The nurse or physician will notify you if you have any abnormal results for your condition or if an action needs to be taken because of the results. You will not be called if results are normal or in range for your condition.

How do I get my prescriptions refilled? Back

Call the MS Institute at 404-352-2020. Please follow the instructions on the recording. Refills requested before 2 p.m. will be called into your pharmacy the same day. Requests after 2 p.m. will be called in the next working day. Please check with your pharmacy before going to pick up your medication.

The physician will refill medication if:

  • It is time for the next refill.
  • The physician ordered the medication originally.
  • You have been seen at Shepherd Center within 6-12 months.
  • Special narcotic or high-risk medication monitoring is up to date. This can include lab work, follow-up visits, etc.

Do not let your medications run out. Calling in advance of need is required since some medications require a clinic visit, blood work or insurance authorization.

Please call at least 1 to 2 months ahead if you are on Avonex, Betaseron, Rebif or Copaxone because most insurance plans require special authorization forms or extensive medical record reviews. This process is called re-certification and it is dictated by your insurance plan. Since Avonex, Betaseron, Rebif and Copaxone should be taken long term, plan ahead and know your insurance company's re-certification requirements.

What do I need to do if I need a wheelchair, wheelchair repairs or wheelchair cushion? Back

Shepherd physicians recommend that patients needing wheelchairs be evaluated in the Shepherd Center Seating Clinic, which is staffed by seating specialists. Call the nurse to obtain a referral and prescription from your physician for an evaluation in this clinic. Then, schedule an appointment by calling the Seating Clinic at 404-350-7760. Learn more here.

What is the Shepherd Center Intensive Therapy Program? Back

The Shepherd Center Intensive Therapy Program is an outpatient rehabilitation program designed to maximize independence through a comprehensive, goal-oriented approach for individuals with MS, spinal cord, acquired brain injuries and/or neuromuscular disease who do not require inpatient supervision. Ask your neurologist and/or nurse for more information and/or a referral to the program. Initial screening for participation in the intensive therapy program will be done over the phone by the intensive therapy program case manager.

What are the admission criteria for Shepherd Center's Day Program? Back

  • Individuals over the age of 12
  • Ability to benefit from two or more coordinated services
  • Functional rehabilitation goals requiring intervention for at least two weeks
  • Ability to participate in the program for three or more hours per visit
  • Medically stable
  • Free from communicable diseases

Who do I contact to find out about Shepherd's Day Program? Back

Please call the MS case manager at 404-350-2020 to get more information about the day program, or discuss treatment options with your MS Institute physician during your visit.

What if I still have more questions about multiple sclerosis? Back

The MS Institute at Shepherd staff is eager to help you. Please feel free to discuss any additional concerns with us during your visit or call 404-352-2020.