ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Deep Brain Stimulation has been used since the late 1990s to treat things like tremors and Parkinson’s disease, but now the treatment is expanding to conditions like epilepsy and dystonia.
Living with a movement disorder such as Parkinson’s Disease or tremors can make doing simple tasks such as eating and writing very difficult.
“These are movement disorders that are caused by abnormal oscillation or abnormal rhythms in the brain,” said Dr. Bryan Klassen, a Mayo Clinic Neurologist.
While there is no cure for these types of diseases, Deep Brain Stimulation can improve the quality of life for someone living with a movement disorder.
“It’s an electrical therapy that allows us to put signals into the brain to combat or treat abnormal signals that are present in some disease states such as tremors, Parkinson’s disease or even dystonia,” said Dr. Klassen.
Electrodes are implanted in the brain, with the location determined by the type of condition being treated.
“The patient is awake for the surgery, typically, and wire is placed through a very tiny incision in a hole in the skull,” said Dr. Klassen. “The reason they are awake is so the neurologists and surgeons can then test the system while they are awake and make sure the tremors are improving or other symptoms are improving and to make sure there isn’t a lot of side effect.”
Patients are then put under general anesthesia to run the wire down the neck which attaches to a battery pack that’s placed in the chest cavity. All the wiring is placed under the skin.
“One analogy would be that it’s a brain pacemaker,” said Dr. Klassen. “I mean, it’s there, it’s providing a signal the entire time. But instead of that signal going to the heart to keep it beating, it’s going to the brain to try to treat abnormal signals that are already there.”
Treatment such as Deep Brain Stimulation has a high success rate and is typically used with patients who did not respond well to medication.
“Tremor for example, we’re extremely successful,” said Dr. Klassen. “Probably getting around 85 percent of tremor controlled in probably 85 percent of patients.”
Dr. Klassen says there is also ongoing research to see if this type of therapy might also benefit patients with depression, anxiety, or even addiction