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Implanting electrodes into the brain may sound like science fiction, but an innovative treatment performed at Jewish Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health, called deep brain stimulation (DBS) uses that exact process to treat movement disorders.
Movement disorders affect people’s ability to move, walk, speak and otherwise function normally. Many of these issues are caused by malfunctions in the neural processes and circuits of the brain.
“DBS helps stop irregular neural firing and encourages a normal pattern of brain activity,” said Joseph Neimat, MD, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Louisville, who performs the procedure at Jewish Hospital. “The results are amazing.”
Traditionally, medications are used to treat movement disorders, but over time, they may become less effective. DBS uses electrodes to pulse electricity to the proper area of the brain and alleviate symptoms — often yielding lasting, reproducible results.
“DBS alters the brain’s circuits in the same way as medications, but it does so in a more predictable and measured way,” Dr. Neimat said. “The therapy produces consistent benefits, and can truly change the quality of patients’ lives.”
Patients work closely with a team of neurologists, neurosurgeons and other providers to prepare for the two procedures necessary to begin DBS therapy.
First, MRIs, CT scans and microelectrodes are used to discover the area of the brain that is malfunctioning. Once the proper area is found, one or more neurostimulator electrodes are placed in the brain. Patients normally return home the day after this procedure.
A week later, patients return to the hospital for a second surgery. The electrodes are connected to a battery that is implanted in the chest. Over the next few months, providers work with the patient to program the electrodes and make sure they are stimulating the brain with the correct charge, amplitude and frequency.
“Patients who find that their medications are losing effectiveness should definitely consider DBS,” Dr. Neimat said. “The surgery is very safe and effective and changes patients’ lives for the better.”
Through a partnership with the University of Louisville, the Movement Disorders Program at Frazier Rehab Institute, part of KentuckyOne Health, provides a comprehensive approach to care for individuals with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. For more information, call 502.582.7654.
This article originally appeared in the 2017 Fall edition of One Health Magazine. Sign up for your free subscription.