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Changing Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease Patients

February 29, 2012

Feb. 6, 2012 –For Parkinson’s disease patients who are unable to control their symptoms with medication, a new surgical procedure is available at Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center – deep brain stimulation.

Deep brain stimulation uses a surgically implanted, battery-operated neurostimulator, similar to a heart pacemaker, to block abnormal nerve signals that cause the tremors associated with Parkinson’s.

Currently, Good Samaritan is the only hospital in northern Colorado to offer deep brain stimulation.

A multistep procedure, the process requires an MRI and a CT scan to find out the exact location in the brain where the symptoms originate. Prior to surgery, small screws, or fiducial markers, are inserted into the skull to serve as a base for a custom-fit surgical platform.

Using 3D visualization, this platform guides the placement of a recording lead or electrode, which is a thin insulated wire inserted through a small opening in the skull and implanted into the brain.

The recording lead allows the neurosurgeon to actually “hear” the overactive brain activity and determine how far the electrode needs to be placed inside the brain’s subthalamic nucleus. During surgery, the patient is awake and asked to perform simple movements such as tapping a finger to make sure the neurostimulator is working.

Then, a permanent lead is placed inside the brain that will connect to an extension wire that is passed under the skin of the head, neck and shoulder. The extension wire connects to a neurostimulator battery pack, which is implanted under the skin near the collarbone in a separate procedure.

After the battery pack is inserted, the electrical impulse voltage is adjusted to meet the patient’s needs. The entire process typically takes up to three months, but for most patients, the end result is life changing.