Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a therapy that has been administered to over 100,000 patients worldwide. The majority of people receiving deep brain stimulation live with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease (PD). The technique has been helpful for improving tremor, on-off fluctuations, dyskinesia, and off time. One of the main limitations of deep brain stimulation has been that it requires brain surgery and carries an associated risk of hemorrhage, stroke, infection, and hardware failure.
Should we consider subcutaneous apomorphine infusions for Parkinson’s disease patients who do not want deep brain stimulation or a dopamine pump? There is a growing interest among people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and families for a “nonsurgical” alternative to deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery or to Duopa pump therapy. The idea of brain surgery or a feeding tube have been cited as being undesirable for large numbers of PD patients.
Since most symptoms of PD are caused by a lack of dopamine in the brain, many Parkinson’s drugs are aimed at either temporarily replenishing dopamine or mimicing the action of dopamine. These types of drugs are called dopaminergic medications. They generally help reduce muscle rigidity, improve speed and coordination of movement and lessen tremor.
Always remember that medication is only part of the overall treatment plan for combatting PD. Learn more about the available medications on these pages, but don't forget exercise and complementary therapies.
Exercise is an important part of healthy living for everyone. For people with Parkinson’s, exercise is more than healthy: it is a vital component to maintaining balance, mobility and the ability to perform activities of daily living.
A surprising fact about Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery technology is that human DBS leads (the wire implanted in the brain and connected to the neurostimulator) and their four shiny, tiny contacts have not really changed much over the last two decades. One reason for the durability of DBS lead design has been the long-term beneficial effects of using this simple approach.
With medical marijuana now legalized in 28 states and Washington, D.C., it is obvious that there is strong interest in its therapeutic properties. Researchers are testing marijuana, which is also called cannabis, as a treatment for many illnesses and diseases, including neurological conditions, with Parkinson's disease (PD) high on the list.
We are blessed to have the National Parkinson Foundation’s terrific free 1-800-4PD-INFO Helpline staffed by nurses and social workers with experience in the field. Recently, many people have called the Helpline after seeing a video declaring focused ultrasound therapy as “the scalpel-less cure for Parkinson’s disease.” The Helpline staff thought it important to objectively explore this therapy and discuss whether it is indeed a scalpel-less cure.
There is a lot we still don’t know about people and their health. Different forms of medical research help us learn more.
What are the facts?
- Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure used to treat a variety of disabling neurological symptoms—most commonly the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD), such as tremor, rigidity, stiffness, slowed movement, and walking problems.
- The procedure is also used to treat essential tremor, a common neurological movement disorder.
- DBS does not damage healthy brain tissue by destroying nerve cells. Instead the procedure blocks electrical signals from targeted areas in the brain.
While surgery can be an effective treatment option for different symptoms of PD, only the symptoms that previously improved on levodopa have the potential to improve after the surgery. Surgical treatment is reserved for PD patients who have exhausted medical treatment of PD tremor or who suffer profound motor fluctuations (wearing off and dyskinesias). Learn more now about the available surgical treatment options and visit the Ask the Surgical Team forum, where Kelly D. Foote, M.D.