Parkinsons brain implant treatment leaves no damage

September 10, 2000

Case study suggests Parkinson's patients undergoing deep brain stimulation to suppress tremor are still candidates for further treatment -- even cure

(PHILADELPHIA, PA) -- A landmark postmortem study, conducted at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, demonstrates deep brain stimulation (DBS), used to suppress tremors in a patient for almost two years prior to death, causes no anatomical damage to the brain.

"This finding is of particular interest in light of the current Parkinson's disease (PD) initiative to find a cure within ten years. The ability to reverse DBS treatment without anatomical brain damage suggest patients undergoing DBS to suppress tremors can do so and still be candidates for further disease treatment should it become available," says Gordon Baltuch, MD, assistant professor of Neurosurgery.

Recently, DBS became the treatment of choice for medically intractable Parkinsonian tremor and essential tremor due to its reversibility. This study sheds a realistic light on the extent of reversibility.

An interdisciplinary team from the Neurosurgery, Neuropathology and Neurology departments treated the 47-year-old female patient.

Prior to treatment, she had essential tremor for eleven years. To alleviate her symptoms, she underwent bilateral implantation of DBS stimulators directed to the thalamic ventralis intermidius (VIM) nuclei. She enjoyed successful tremor suppression for almost two years until her death from unrelated causes.

"We plan to continue our research into the mechanism of DBS through both patient and animal studies. Strengthening and expanding our findings can only further our understanding of PD," states Dr. Baltuch.
The Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center, a division of the PENN Neurological Institute, performs approximately 50 cases of DBS implantation and treatment each year.

The Center provides comprehensive care for patients with Parkinson's Disease and other movement disorders, including dystonia, Tourette's syndrome, Huntington's disease, and essential tremor.

The Center is designated as one of the National Parkinson Foundation's worldwide Centers of Excellence and offers a full range of medical and surgical therapies, experimental therapeutics, and an extensive array of support services.

Editor's Note: Dr. Baltuch may be reached directly for comment at (215) 829-7144 or (215) 662-7788.

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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