POSTED: Friday, July 16, 2010 - 9:27am
UPDATED: Friday, July 16, 2010 - 10:33am
Doctors have discovered a treatment to reduce the jerks and jitters that plague patients with movement disorders, like Parkinson's. It's being performed right here in Baton Rouge at the Neuromedical Center. NBC 33 News met the patients and doctors who've seen the benefits of the treatment first hand.
Bes Seal suffers from Essential Tremor Disorder, which causes her body to move uncontrollably. There is no cure and until Ms. Seal learned about Deep Brain Stimulation, she had no hope for relief. But now she can escape the shakes, with the push of a button.
It's a change that Ms. Seal could see right away. While still in the operating room, doctors asked Seal to try something she never thought she'd do again.
Ms. Seal said, "When they told me I could write my name, which I didn't believe, but I wrote Bess Seal for the first time in like 15 years... It's just amazing."
Amazing results, thanks to amazing technology. An electrode was carefully inserted eight centimeters inside Ms. Seal's brain. Wires connect the stimulator to a pulse generator and battery just under the skin. After the operation, the generator is programmed to target the specific areas of the brain affected by the patient's disease. But it is not without risk.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Paul J. Waguespack explains that "we're sticking a sharp needle basically into the brain and obviously we want to avoid any bleeding, which could be catastrophic."
The risks are far outshined by the results for many patients who suffer from degenerative diseases and have no other treatment options.
Deep Brain Stimulation is able to quiet the parts of the brain that are sending mixed signals - the impulses that cause tremor patients to move uncontrollably.
It's been approved by the FDA to treat Parkinson's, Essential Tremor and Generalized Distonia.
Parkinson's patient Mary Thomas is living a different life, post-op. She was confined to a wheelchair and required around the clock care. The surgery gave her back her independence.
Ms. Thomas said, "I still have my walker and I still have my cane but they're tucked away in a closet I am not, I don't even miss them."
Neurologist, Dr. Gerald Calegan, has found success with Deep Brain Stimulation and hopes that the more doctors learn about the treatment, the more diseases it can treat. Right now research is being done to see if Deep Brain Stimulation can be used to treat epilepsy, obesity, obsessive-compulsive disorder and even depression. It is already being tried on Terets patients and is showing positive results.