A new study shows that a treatment called deep brain stimulation can improve quality of life for patients with Parkinson’s disease and give them more daily hours without bothersome movement symptoms. However, brain stimulation also carries a greater risk of serious side effects.
Deep brain stimulation has been used for over a decade to treat patients whose Parkinson’s symptoms are no longer effectively controlled with medication. The procedure involves surgically implanting tiny electrodes into brain regions that control movement. When the electrodes are stimulated, they inhibit the malfunctioning brain signals that cause the movement problems of Parkinson’s.
The new study looked at 255 patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease. They were randomly assigned to receive either deep brain stimulation or standard therapy, including medication.
By 6 months after surgery, movement control improved in 71% of patients who received brain stimulation, compared to 32% in the standard therapy group. On the down side, serious problems like infection from surgery were seen in 40% of patients who received brain stimulation but just 11% in the other group. Most of the side effects, however, improved within a few months.