People struggling every day with Essential Tremor Disorder, like Paul E., will find that Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) can be life altering. What was embarrassing and uncontrollable shaking of his head, hands and even effected his speech is now under control after decades of progressive tremors, a disease that he and his sister share.
Essential Tremor Disorder or diseases like Parkinson’s and Dystonia are neurological conditions that cause the body to be unable to control its own movements of the extremities.
DBS uses electrical impulses to affect specific cells and chemicals within the brain. The procedure is performed in two stages. In the first stage, the patient is awake during surgery so the brain’s activity can be closely monitored. As electrodes are implanted into the brain, the neurosurgeon adjusts the position of the electrodes based on the patient’s responses.
For example, when the patient is able to control movement of the previously shaking hand the neurosurgeon knows the electrode is attached to the right spot in the brain so the shaking is controlled. In Paul’s case, he was able to sign his name and could read his own writing.
“It’s a very profound moment in the operating room when the patient can control the shaking,” says Richard Veyna, M.D, neurosurgeon.
The patient usually spends one night in the hospital during the first stage of the process. When the patient returns for the second phase of the surgery, the batteries which were on the outside of body while the patient adjusts to the stimulation, are inserted into the chest wall. The patient leaves the hospital with a controller that he or she can turn on and off with a pacemaker-like device.
Dr. Veyna is one of few experts in Michigan to perform Deep Brain Stimulation with his interest and passion shown years ago in the development of a multispecialty program for surgical treatment of movement disorders, when he partnered with Struthers Parkinson’s Disease Center, a Parkinson’s Disease Foundation Center of Excellence in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Research continues with clinical trials and studies on the use of DBS for other movement disorders such as Tourette syndrome, epilepsy, and cluster headaches are underway across the country. Visit the National Institutes of Health website for more.
If you know someone suffering with Essential Tremors, share this article with them.