Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that causes tremors, stiffness in the limbs and trouble walking, is frightening for those living with it. There is currently no cure for this and this disease can also destroy memory.
With approximately one million people living with Parkinson’s in the US and 60,000 Americans being diagnosed each year, finding treatment and potential cures is incredibly important. One such treatment that has been shown to be effective 15 years after the initial transplant is deep brain stimulation. But what is it and how does it work?
Understand deep brain stimulation
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) restores the quality of life of patients with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders, Neurologist Elana Klar, MD explains. Additionally, DBS could soon have broader implications as it’s being studied to treat conditions like chronic pain.
DBS uses electrical stimulation to disrupt the faulty brain circuitry that triggers loss of control over movement, explains Dr. Clear. People undergoing the procedure often reduce the need for medication, and sometimes eliminate it altogether. During the surgery, two electrodes are placed (one on each side of the brain) and small wires connect them to a stimulator that is placed under the skin in the chest.
Deep brain stimulation illustration. Teradej/Shutterstock
Doctors use sophisticated imaging and recording of brain cells to ensure correct placement of the electrodes.
They briefly wake the patient up during surgery to activate the wires and confirm that the electrodes are delivering power where they need to go to improve symptoms. Recovery is quick and virtually painless.
After the operation, Dr. Clearly a stimulator in the chest, similar to a pacemaker, to send a continuous signal to electrodes in the brain.
“For the right patient, DBS is completely life-changing.”
Curious if deep brain stimulation is right for you? Contact your doctor and ask for a referral to see a specialist. A specialist will be able to discuss your options with you.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.