Deep Brain Stimulation Helps Tremors
Tremors are rhythmic, involuntary movements that are frequently associated with Parkinson's disease and essential tremor. Many times, tremors can be mild and barely noticeable to other people. Over time, patients with these diseases may experience worsening tremors that interfere with their daily lives.
For some of these patients, deep brain stimulation (DBS) offers relief. The procedure involves the surgical implantation of a device into the brain. The device is then connected via lead wires to a pacemaker-like battery in the chest. DBS can suppress tremors by delivering a controlled, electrical stimulation to the area of the brain responsible for the tremors.
"People who have this surgery say they feel like their disease has regressed," says neurologist, Amanda Avila, M.D. "They have fewer concerns about their handwriting or about eating, and many times, can take less medication. It makes their life easier."
Dr. Avila recommends the surgery for patients who have exhausted other treatment methods, including oral medications. Not every patient is a candidate. Good candidates include people who are otherwise healthy or have intolerable side effects to medications. Patients who are in the moderate to severe category, but not the most severe, do best.
Dr. Avila successfully treated an 89-year-old Word War II veteran who loved to keep a daily journal. Because his essential tremor made his hand shake so severely, he had to stop. The surgery allowed him to return to his normal activities, including journaling.
"The device is not a cure," Dr. Avila explains. "The disease still progresses but DBS helps with quality-of-life issues. Essential tremor patients can sometimes see relief immediately, although most patients need several months to achieve an ideal result. Additionally, Parkinson's patients can see benefits, not only to their tremor, but also to the stiffness and slowness common to the disease."
Your Brain Use It or Lose it
Amanda Avila, M.D.
Florida Neurology Group
12670 Whitehall Drive
Fort Myers, FL 33907