Health Team

Surgery helping people with dystonia

Posted May 4, 2009 5:57 p.m. EDT
Updated May 4, 2009 6:57 p.m. EDT

Dystonia is a life-crippling disorder that causes patients to lose control over muscle movements. However, surgery can help patients curb the spasms.

For Kyle Hausler, 15, life had always been about the next big game.

"Basketball and soccer, football, baseball, hockey, everything,” he said.

So, it was only natural that the teenager blamed sports for his sudden limp.

"As it got worse, I knew it wasn't just some sports injury. I knew it was something more than that. We had no idea though,” Hausler said.

Then he discovered he had the rare disorder, Dystonia. It made his muscles twist and contract.

"My toes started to curl in on my left foot and I couldn't' make them go straight. It was a little scary,” Hausler said.

Medicine didn't work, so surgeons tried deep brain stimulation (DBS). They implanted a "brain pacemaker" which sent electric currents to the brain.

"It works unbelievably well. In some cases completely eliminating the symptoms," said Dr. Michele Tagliati, a neurologist.

Doctors decided to try DBS after seeing it work on Parkinson's patients. They often suffer from dystonia as well.

"When DBS worked with dystonia, it was nothing short of a miracle. These kids, like Kyle, go back to a normal life,” Tagliati said.

Hausler was back on the playing field in two months.

“I played for about a minute and half. I couldn't really talk I was just so happy and overwhelmed,” Hausler said.

The results aren't immediate, but doctors say once patients respond to DBS they can maintain the results and keep new symptoms from developing.