Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson's

MIAMI. (KFSN) -- Parkinson's disease is a chronic disease of the central nervous system causing people to have shaking, muscle stiffness and difficulty moving and speaking. When medication can't control muscle rigidity and tremors, patients may be candidates for deep brain stimulation (DBS) where an implanted device delivers impulses to the brain. It can provide fast and dramatic results.

Fifty-eight-year-old Linda Smart takes nothing for granted these days.

"My driving, walking, just any daily activity was limited," Linda told Ivanhoe.

Twelve years ago, doctors diagnosed Linda with Parkinson's Disease. Medication helped at first, but gradually, her symptoms came back.

"Going out to dinner, I couldn't cut my food," Linda said. "My husband had to help me do that."

Linda's husband, Euan Smart, explained, "Really in the last two or three years it was pretty hard to sit there and watch your wife deteriorate like that."

For the past few months, Linda has been able to control her tremors with the touch of a button. The device delivers tiny electrical pulses to her brain.

If Linda turns it off she says, "I can feel my muscles tightening up and the shaking coming back."

Linda turns it back on and has almost instant relief.

"The beauty of this therapy is that the patients have control over the stimulation," Corneliu Luca, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Miami Health System said.

During surgery, doctors insert two wires into very precise locations in the brain. The wires are connected to cables and a small battery they implant under a patient's clavicle.

Dr. Luca says experts still aren't completely sure why the stimulation works. But they do have some theories.

"We are able to disrupt the pathological oscillations in the brain and bring back the brain to its original state," Dr. Luca said.

"I think it's like having my wife back 10 to 12 years ago," Euan said. "It's like we've turned the clock back."

In most cases, patients remain awake during the DBS surgery, so doctors can communicate with them to ensure the proper placement of the wires. More recently, advances in technology and imaging have allowed doctors to place the wires while patients are under anesthesia or "asleep."

For more information, contact:

Lisa Worley
Asst. Vice President, Medical Communications
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Office: 305-24-5184
Cell: 305-458-9654
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.