Patients with Parkinson's disease who undergo deep brain stimulation
(DBS)—a treatment in which a pacemaker-like device sends pulses to
electrodes implanted in the brain—can expect stable improvement in
muscle symptoms for at least three years, according to a Department of
Veterans Affairs study appearing in the most recent issue of the journal Neurology.
"VA was proud to partner with the National Institutes of Health in this
research," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "Our
research on Parkinson's helps ensure we continue to provide the best
care possible for Veterans with this debilitating disease."
VA cares for some 40,000 Veterans with the condition.
In DBS, surgeons implant electrodes in the brain and run thin wires
under the skin to a pacemaker-like device placed at one of two locations
in the brain. Electrical pulses from the battery-operated device jam the
brain signals that cause muscle-related symptoms. Thousands of Americans
have seen successful results from the procedure since it was first
introduced in the late 1990s. But questions have remained about which
stimulation site in the brain yields better outcomes, and over how many
years the gains persist.
Initial results from the study appeared in 2009 in the Journal of the
American Medical Association. Based on the six-month outcomes of 255
patients, the researchers concluded that DBS is riskier than carefully
managed drug therapy—because of the possibility of surgery
complications—but may hold significant benefits for those with
Parkinson's who no longer respond well to medication alone.