A New Treatment for Parkinson's

By Tim Leljedal
6:21pm, August 30, 2006

When Charles Sukenik was first diagnosed with Parkinson's disease the symptoms were manageable with medication, but then medicine could no longer stop the tremors.

"I'd be shaking like this. My arms would be shaking, my leg would shake. I couldn't walk, couldn't do anything."

Doctors decided to implant a device in Charles called deep brain stimulation. During a six-hour surgery, two holes were drilled into his head. Electrodes, powered by two battery packs in his chest, were placed in the brain.

A diagnostic test is done regularly to make sure the device is working, and for Charles it has worked. For the most part, the tremors are gone.

The device was approved by the FDA in 2002. However, some doctors have been hesitant to use it. There was a fear the risks involved with brain surgery might not be worth the reward.

But a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine could change that. Researchers followed more than 150 people like Charles. They found Parkinson's patients with the device had a better quality of life than those treated with just medication.

Dr. Michele Taglioti of the Mount Sinai Medical Center said, "It means getting back your life, that's what most of our patients say. ‘I got my life back.’"

And Mount Sinai Medical Center's Doctor Michele Taglioti says this research could change the way neurologists approach the procedure.

"Now deep brain stimulation becomes almost a standard of care option for patients with advanced Parkinson's disease."

The surgery is elective, expensive and not for everyone. Patients have to meet certain criteria, but it can help people like Charles lead a normal life.