The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix has launched a new clinic aimed at streamlining the process for the growing number of patients who are potential candidates for Deep Brain Stimulation.
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a surgical treatment involving the implantation of a medical device called a "brain pacemaker," which sends electrical impulses to specific parts of the brain. DBS in select brain regions has provided remarkable therapeutic benefits for otherwise treatment-resistant movement and affective disorders such as Parkinson's disease, tremor and dystonia.
The new clinic, which is part of the Ali center at the Barrow Neurological Institute, offers patients a comprehensive resource for education, medical evaluation, psychological assessment, imaging, surgery and post surgical monitoring. The one-day a week clinic was launched in July to serve the increasing numbers of patients who travel from all over the nation for DBS evaluation and surgery.
"We have dramatically reduced the waiting and evaluation time for patients," says Rohit Dhall , MD, who heads the clinic. "In the past, waiting for evaluation and approval for this treatment could be frustrating for patients. So, we have added new resources to the Ali center and established this clinic. It has already become very popular with people from all over Arizona, and as far away as Illinois, Wyoming and Michigan."
Phoenix real estate and development broker Tommy Zuleger is a patient and fan of the new clinic. "The Ali clinic's process was very efficient," says Zuleger. "The best part of the process was having every physician who was involved in my case working together and talking often about my treatment. I know that DBS isn't a cure, but I feel better than I have in years and I hope that it will help to control my symptoms for years to come."
Dr. Dhall emphasizes that DBS is not an effective treatment for all patients. He says previously a patient could wait up to year to complete the evaluation process. Now, the wait time is four to six weeks. Barrow is a leader in the use of DBS to treat movement disorders. Neurosurgeons and neurologists at Barrow were involved in early clinical trials of the therapy and thus have deep experience that is hard to find in the emerging field.
The clinic is held on Thursdays and four Barrow neurologists manage the multidisciplinary assessments of patients. Before patients see the neurologists, they are provided comprehensive education about the treatment by fulltime educators.
"One of the most important aspects of the clinic is to manage the expectations of patients," says Margaret Anne Coles , program manager at the Ali center. "Many of these patients have never received basic information about Parkinson's and so we provide a lot of support and information, not only about DBS, but about the disease in general."
Dr. Dhall explains that the Barrow doctors immediately establish communication with the physicians who have referred their patients to the Ali center. "We focus on keeping the patient's referring doctors in the loop at all times, so that the patient has another medical resource during their recovery."
Barrow Neurological Institute