Parkinsonson’s sufferers who had electrodes implanted in their brains improved substantially more than those who took only medicine, according to the biggest test yet of deep brain stimulation.
The study offers the most hopeful news to date for Parkinson’s sufferers. The technique reduced tremors, rigidity and flailing of the limbs and allowed people to move freely for nearly five extra hours a day.
But the research also revealed higher-than-expected risks. About 40% of the patients who received these “brain pacemakers” suffered serious side effects, including a surprising number of falls with injuries.
“We had one patient who felt so good he went up to repair his roof, fell down and broke both his legs,” said lead author Fran Weaver of Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital, outside Chicago. “Patients are feeling so much better; they forget they still have Parkinson’s.”
With deep brain stimulation, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2002 for advanced Parkinson’s, a surgeon implants electrodes in the brain, which are then connected to a pacemaker-like device that can be adjusted and turned off and on. That device, implanted under the collarbone or in the abdomen, sends tiny electrical pulses to the brain, disabling overactive nerve cells.
The researchers studied 255 people with advanced Parkinson’s at 13 hospitals. After six months, it was found that in the surgery group, 86 out of 121 (71%) saw improvements in movement, as scored by the neurologists. In the medication group, 43 out of 134 patients (32%) showed improvements. The latest findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Sources: The Times Of India