Health Team

Brain surgery aids Parkinson's disease patients

Posted April 10, 2012 12:39 p.m. EDT
Updated April 10, 2012 7:12 p.m. EDT

— 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.