Deep brain stimulation surgery isn’t new. This novel approach to treat Parkinson’s disease tremors first gained approval in 1997 and became a treatment for advanced-stage symptoms in 2002. By 2016, deep brain stimulation surgery received approval for use in earlier stages of the disease as well, but it’s not right for everyone.
As a neurologist, Joseph Watson, MD, treats a wide range of brain conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, at Cerebrum MD in Tyson’s Corner, Vienna, Virginia. Here’s what you need to know about deep brain stimulation surgery and Parkinson’s.
Approximately 1 million Americans have Parkinson’s disease. This neurodegenerative disorder affects more people than Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis combined.
When you have Parkinson’s disease, neurons in your brain begin to deteriorate or die. These important nerve cells create dopamine, a type of chemical messenger in your brain. As your dopamine levels drop, your brain activity changes, which triggers the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Common signs of Parkinson’s include:
Parkinson’s can also cause a decrease in unconscious movements, such as smiling, blinking, or arm swinging while walking.
Deep brain stimulation surgery involves implanting thin wires with electrodes on the ends into specific areas of your brain. Once in place, they produce mild electrical impulses that regulate abnormal brain activity — a process known as neurostimulation. Dr. Watson can adjust these electrical pulses based on your condition and symptoms to achieve the best results.
To perform the surgery, the thin wires with the electrodes on the ends are inserted into different areas of the brain through tiny incisions in the skull. The internal pulse generator — which provides the electrical current — is implanted in the upper chest or abdomen. A single wire then connects the pulse generator to the wires with the electrodes on the end. This single wire is hidden underneath the skin of your head, neck, and shoulder.
After undergoing deep brain stimulation surgery, you’ll also receive a remote control, so you’ll be able to turn the device on or off. Deep brain stimulation surgery may provide significant relief from certain neurological symptoms. However, you should consider it an interventional therapy, not a cure.
At the moment, levodopa is the most effective medication available for Parkinson’s symptoms. This natural chemical gets converted into dopamine inside your brain, making it highly effective for relieving Parkinson’s symptoms.
If you’ve had Parkinson’s for at least four years and levodopa no longer manages your symptoms — or you have unstable responses to your medication — deep brain stimulation surgery could be an option.
Deep brain stimulation surgery often helps with:
In most cases, deep brain stimulation surgery doesn’t help with symptoms that don’t respond to levodopa. It also doesn’t usually help with problems like impaired swallowing, speaking, or thinking.
Research shows that the benefits of deep brain stimulation surgery can last at least five years, and it can even reduce your medication usage. But deep brain stimulation surgery doesn’t cure or slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
Are you ready to see if brain surgery can help relieve your Parkinson’s symptoms? To learn more, book an appointment over the phone with Cerebrum MD today.