Deep Brain Stimulation is a relatively new operation primarily used for treating Parkinson’s disease and various motor disorders, the most common being essential tremor. This disorder, also known as benign tremor or familial tremor, is genetic and especially prevalent among populations of Northern European and Scandinavian heritage, which make up Minnesota’s biggest demographics. Other motor disorders treated include various dystonias, such as neck torticollis, and obsessive compulsive disorder, one of the most recently approved treatments. Currently seeking governmental approval, use of deep brain stimulation to treat seizures is yet another area which has the potential for tremendous and life-changing impact if approved. Metropolitan Neurosurgery has been performing this procedure since 1999, so you can count on experience, insight, and compassion throughout the treatment process.
When considering deep brain stimulation, it is important to remember that it is not a cure, but simply a treatment. It is not designed to fix a particular ailment, but rather to alleviate motor symptoms. Because many movement disorders are degenerative, medications can lose effectiveness over time. Deep brain stimulation is able to manage a disorder beyond what medication can accomplish because it lacks the side effects that undermine the benefits of medication. Most of our referrals at Metropolitan Neurosurgery come from neurologists who are movement disorder sub-specialists, so talk to your doctor or specialist about determining if this treatment is right for you or a loved one.
Many people fear “brain surgery” and the thought of being awake while a surgery is being performed, but deep brain stimulation does not need to be feared. It is stereotactic—using advanced 3D location technology—and conducted through the smallest possible incision; it has a very high success rate. The surgeon controls a computer-guided apparatus, including an oscilloscope that locates the proper region to implant electrodes at target nuclei in the brain, which are attached to a device not unlike a pacemaker via hidden wires on the left and right sides of the patient’s head. One of the main reasons the patient is awake during the surgery is to enable the doctor to monitor the response to treatment. This is not the kind of surgery where the patient wakes up to find out it was only half successful. In fact, patient and family will be able to see the results as they are achieved in the course of the operation.
Our specialist at Metropolitan Neurosurgery describes the atmosphere in the operating room as emotional and rewarding, with many tears shed, as the rigidity caused by Parkinson’s disease disappears or the uncontrollable quivering of essential tremor ceases. Because stimulation testing is used to verify the target and manifest the change in symptoms before the operation is over, the maximum effectiveness can be achieved. Many candidates for this surgery come in with a grueling medication schedule that is greatly reduced and simplified thanks to the procedure, which has no side effects of its own, so quality of life after the surgery is much improved. In addition, the initial operation implanting the electrodes only involves one night in the hospital, while the follow-up procedure a week later, attaching the electrodes to the electrical stimulator, is an outpatient procedure. This means that deep brain stimulation will give you back many of the motor skills you have lost, while at the same time causing very little impact on your life.