Parkinson’s Disease affects many Americans, and has a high level of cultural awareness thanks to celebrities like Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox, who have the condition. There is no cure, and symptoms can be debilitating.
But a new study, reported at WedMD Health News and MarketWatch.com, suggests that Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) can have an immediate calming effect on symptoms, such as tremors, for up to three years.
DBS uses a battery-operated device to deliver electrical impulses to areas of the brain that control movement. WebMD reports the impulses are believed to block abnormal signals that cause motor symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.
The procedure isn’t for everyone though, and is usually only for those who no longer respond to their Parkinson’s medications or who experience unacceptable side effects from them. Marketwatch.com reported that initial findings showed the implanted DBS to be a riskier option than carefully managed drug therapy.
On average, the people studied gained four to five hours a day free of shaking, slowed movement or stiffness. The effects were greatest at six months and leveled off slightly by three years.
WebMD reports that while there were early improvements in quality of life, they gradually diminished, and there was a decline in mental abilities. The reason for this, though, is believed to be the progression of the disease and development of treatment-resistant symptoms.
“Deep brain stimulation is not a cure for Parkinson’s disease, but it is a treatment option for many people who are no longer benefiting from their medication,” researcher Dr. Frances M. Weaver, director of the Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Ill., told WebMD.
(Photo Courtesy of St. Jude Medical)