Deep Brain Stimulation Improves the Lives of Parkinson’s Patients

Recently making headlines in British Columbia, deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been shown to significantly improve the lives of those living with Parkinson’s.

Being the second most common neurodegenerative condition in the world, like Alzheimer’s, there is no cure. However, DBS surgery is significantly improving the lives of those living with this degenerative disorder.

Parkinson’s Patients Are Given a Greater Sense of Hope — But It Comes with a Wait

As reported in a recent Global News article, DBS is a “revolutionary” treatment that leads to dramatic results. In fact, it has the ability to take a disabled person and place them back into the workforce. In other cases, individuals who were dependent on a caregiver become independent once again, allowing their spouse to go back to work.

The issue is, there is currently only one surgeon in British Columbia that can provide this surgery, resulting in an expected two-year wait. As stated by this surgeon, the device itself costs around $10,000, which is equivalent to a two-day hospital stay for someone living with the complications of Parkinson’s.

What Is Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)?

Initially performed in 1987, the first reports of DBS being used to treat Parkinson’s were published in 1993. Today, the number of movement disorder patients who have been treated with DBS is approximately 20,000.

Although a surgical procedure, DBS does not involve significant permanent changes to the brain. Instead, a hole is drilled into the skull so that an electrode can be implanted into the brain itself. Attached to a device that is similar to a pacemaker, electrical signals are sent to key areas of the brain, improving symptoms of Parkinson’s.

After patients undergo this surgery, the majority still need to take medication, but often reduce their intake considerably. Targeting motor skills, in this case, tremors, it is important to note that DBS will not improve cognitive symptoms.

How Else Can Parkinson’s Be Treated?

Much like Alzheimer’s, there is not one standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Instead, patients are treated based on his or her individual symptoms.

The most common intervention is the use of medication, however, none are available that can reverse the effects of this disease. The medication of choice will depend on the symptoms present while considering other health issues and a patient’s age. Most often, these drugs help temporarily replenish dopamine or mimic the effects of this critical neurotransmitter.

Levodopa is one of the main medications used to treat this disease. Once taken, the body converts this drug into dopamine. In relation to surgery, this is only an effective option for symptoms that had previously improved after taking levodopa.

Other than DBS, patients are also given a surgical option known as Duopa. Known as pump-delivered therapy, a small tube is inserted into the small intestine. Medication is then pumped into the body from a small pouch that can be hidden under one’s shirt.

Once diagnosed, Parkinson’s patients are also advised to exercise. This helps individuals maintain greater balance, strength, and mobility. As reported by the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project, patients who begin to exercise earlier, for a minimum of 2.5 hours a week, experience a slower rate of decline in regards to quality of life.

For those who are unfamiliar, the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project is the largest clinical study conducted to date. Beginning in 2009, this study has examined 10,000 participants across five countries. 

Some of the study’s core highlights include:

  • Simple interventions, including exercise, can help change the course of one’s disease.
  • Anxiety and depression are the most common factors that impact the overall health of Parkinson’s patients.
  • Parkinson’s patients who receive different medications and treatment plans display vastly different results depending on where they received care.

BrainTest® Supports the Diagnostic Process

Unlike Alzheimer’s, the early warning signs of Parkinson’s generally affect one’s motor skills. However, each patient’s experience is unique. Now recognized as more than a motor disorder, individuals also experience symptoms that affect cognition, sleep, sensory function, and behavior.  

This is why assessment tools, such as BrainTest®, are recommended when aiming to detect possible cognitive changes associated with a wide range of neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and mild cognitive impairment.

Take your first test now for free!

Krista Hillis has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

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