A "brain pacemaker" called deep brain stimulation (DBS) remains an effective treatment for Parkinson's disease for at least three years, according to a study in the June 2010 online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
But while improvements in motor function remained stable, there were gradual declines in health-related quality of life and cognitive abilities.
First author of the study is Frances M. Weaver, PhD, who has joint appointments at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
Weaver was one of the lead investigators of a 2010 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that motor functions remained stable for two years in DBS patients. The new additional analysis extended the follow-up period to 36 months.
DBS is a treatment for Parkinson's patients who no longer benefit from medication, or who experience unacceptable side effects. DBS is not a cure, and it does not stop the disease from progressing. But in the right patients, DBS can significantly improve symptoms, especially tremors. DBS also can relieve muscle rigidity that causes decreased range of motion.
In the DBS procedure, a neurosurgeon drills a dime-size hole in the skull and inserts an electrode about 4 inches into the brain. A connecting wire from the electrode runs under the skin to a battery implanted near the collarbone. The electrode delivers mild electrical signals that effectively reorganize the brain's electrical impulses. The procedure can be done on one or both sides of the brain.