For people with severe Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, or dystonia, everyday tasks, such as holding a glass of water, pose an extreme challenge. Medications may help for a while, but can become ineffective over time. Fortunately, there is an alternative.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a safe, effective treatment for relieving symptoms of severe movement disorders. DBS patients typically experience life-changing results. They may be able to drink from a glass, use a pen, or perform other tasks that were elusive before.
In a DBS procedure, a specially trained neurosurgeon implants tiny electrodes into areas of the brain that control movement. In a second procedure, the electrodes are attached to an implanted generator, similar to a heart pacemaker, which sends signals to the electrodes in the brain. Later, the generator is programmed by a neurologist, who determines the optimal setting for normalizing brain activity so that tremors, stiffness, slowness, involuntary movements and gait problems subside.
SLUCare neurosurgeon Dr. Richard Bucholz has performed hundreds of DBS surgeries. He has developed and patented surgical tools that make DBS less invasive and more comfortable for patients. Among his innovations is a collar that holds the patient's head throughout the procedure — without the cumbersome frame used by some neurosurgeons. It's an approach that helps patients, who are awake during surgery, to feel more at ease.
Using minimally invasive techniques has other benefits, too:
The key to successful DBS treatment is making sure the patient is a good candidate for the procedure. At SLUCare, this process involves a team of specialists: