About 60,000 people in the US are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year. Now results from a study show one particular surgical treatment may become the first line of defense when it comes to treating one of Parkinson’s most common symptoms.
Dale Nevels didn’t think much at first about his shaky hands. Then one night he was having dinner with a client and they asked him whether he was going to drive home.
“I said, I’m staying at a hotel across the street. Why would you ask that? And he said, ‘because your hands are shaking so bad, we think you’ve been drinking too much,’” said Nevels.
That led Nevels to go see his doctor. The diagnosis was Parkinson’s disease. Tremors, or shaking of the hands, feet, or legs, occurs in 70 percent of Parkinson’s patients. Current treatments help control the symptoms. But …
David Charles, MD, a Neurologist at Vanderbilt University said, “all of the therapies that we currently have available do not change the progression of the disease.”
Researchers at Vanderbilt University have found that deep brain stimulation, or DBS, may slow the progression of tremors in early-stage patients.
Dr. Charles said, “The patients that received optimal medical therapy were seven times more likely to have tremor develop in an additional body segment over the course of the study compared to those that received DBS.”
Nevels took part in the trial, even though he had to stop taking his Parkinson’s medications, putting him at risk for worsening symptoms, but he has never regretted it.
Nevels shared, “The surgeon that did the surgery for me came into my room the next morning and he said, ‘I can assure you got five good years.’ But I’m in my 12th year.”
Giving him time and a steady hand to hold onto those he loves the most.
Vanderbilt is the lead center for a new large-scale phase three clinical trial for DBS in early stage Parkinson’s patients. Patients must be 50 to 75 years old, have had Parkinson’s disease for one to four years and have a stable response to medication. For more information, please call 615-343-2961.
Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer; Robert Walko, Editor.
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TOPIC: DBS CALMS PARKINSON’S TREMORS
REPORT: MB #4555
BACKGROUND: Parkinson’s disease or PD is a neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects the dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain. Symptoms generally develop slowly over the years, and the progression of these symptoms will vary from person to person due to the diverse nature of the disease. PD patients may experience symptoms including but not limited to limb rigidity, slowness of movement, balance problems, gait, and tremor, mainly while at rest and often described as pill rolling tremor in the hands (other forms of tremor are also possible). The cause of PD remains unknown, and there is no current cure. However, treatment options are available and vary widely from medication to surgery. Parkinson’s itself is not fatal, however, complications as a result of the disease can be serious.
DIAGNOSING: Some early signs of the disease may not only include tremor, but small handwriting, loss of smell, trouble sleeping, moving, or walking. Sometimes constipation is another sign, as well as a soft/low voice, masked face (serious, depressed, or mad looks), and dizziness or fainting. There is no single test for diagnosing Parkinson’s, but if it is suspected, the patient should see a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders and they can further assess signs and symptoms. The exam usually involves questions about the patient’s medical history, and a neuralgic exam. During the exam, facial expressions and features will be assessed. The doctor may look for signs of tremor while the patient is at rest, how easy it is for the patient to stand up from sitting in a chair, and how good the patients balance is. Working with your doctor to create a plan to stay healthy is of vital importance; you may also benefit from working with an occupational therapist, physical therapist, or speech therapist.
NEW RESEARCH: Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are working on a new large-scale phase three clinical trial for deep brain stimulation or DBS in Parkinson’s patients. This stems from the analysis of data from a previous trial conducted that suggested DBS, when administered to patients with very early-stage Parkinson’s disease, slowed the progression of rest tremor. This is remarkable because as of now, there are no treatments for Parkinson’s that have been proven to actually slow the progression of any elements of the disease. Analysis showed that 86 percent of drug therapy patients developed rest tremor over the course of a two-year period, while it occurred in only 46 percent of patients who received this DBS therapy in addition to drug therapy. Four of the DBS patients had rest tremor improvement, and it completely disappeared from all affected limbs for one DBS patient.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT:
Kristin Smart, Media Relations
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