Health Team

Brain surgery aids Parkinson's disease patients

Posted April 10, 2012

— Brain surgery often yields some amazing results for patients with Parkinson's disease.

Joseph Kennedy, 59, has experienced many of the effects of Parkinson's – tremors, stiffness, problems walking and speaking.

"I've been shaking for six years," Kennedy said. "It's pretty much all over my right side."

He has been taking nine pills a day to help control the symptoms, but the pills also have side effects such as constipation.

As a new treatment, Kennedy is undergoing deep brain stimulation surgery at the Duke Neurological Disorders Center. Over multiple surgeries, doctors placed a device in his chest connected by wires under the skin to electrodes in his brain.

Kennedy has a remote control that he can use to optimize the stimulation settings on the electrodes. That reduces his tremors and helps him move and speak more easily. He also takes less medication.

Kennedy said the improvements make him feel "like new money."

Duke neurosurgeon Dr. Nandan Lad said advances in deep brain stimulation have to led to a 75 to 85 percent success rate. Because of that success, more patients with Parkinson's are choosing the treatment at an earlier point.


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  • bubbaOK Apr 13, 2012

    Well we have it in our family tho full PD is rare. This is a nervous system default which leaves the patients exhausted of hope and I wonder if profits aren't the motivation?

  • Sniffles Apr 11, 2012

    Thanks See Chart, I've heard the same too. BTW, do you have of any PD support groups in Cary, NC for younger folks (age 50) with PD?

  • See Chart Apr 11, 2012

    As a caregiver for my wife who has PD Dx 12 years ago and
    attending several PD support groups a month during these dozen
    years in New York City which has a large population of PD
    patients that have been given DBS treatment ,I wish to say that the effects post DBS surgery do vary in many patients that I have observed.

    Patients with severe Dyskinesia (shaking -tremor)have benefited
    in controlling that problem ,only to find themselves in a year
    or so ,walking slow ,depressed ,continually needing adjustments of the transplanted devise and quite unhappy that this procedure
    did not live up to the promise of their unmanaged expectations.

    A through Psychiatric examination is a must before a Neuro=Surgeon might be consulted, usually surgeons work in a team with a Neurologist & Psychiatrist.

    While I do not wish to diminish the importance of DBS surgery I also wish to say that a great number of PD patients have not been as helped post DBS implants as this article would suggest.