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DBS Offers Survival Advantage to Parkinson's Patients

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 03 Jan 2018
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Image: New research suggests deep brain stimulation can extend the life of Parkinson’s patients (Photo courtesy of Getty Images).
Image: New research suggests deep brain stimulation can extend the life of Parkinson’s patients (Photo courtesy of Getty Images).
A new study suggests that deep brain stimulation (DBS) could extend the life of people with Parkinson's disease (PD).

Researchers at Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital (HVAH; IL, USA), Northwestern University (NU; Chicago, IL, USA), and other institutions conducted a retrospective analysis of HVAH and Medicare administrative data of 611 veterans (mean age 69 years) with PD who received a surgical DBS implant between 2007 and 2013. Participants were matched to a similar cohort of 611 veterans with PD that did not receive DBS. The main outcomes were overall survival rates.

The researchers paired each DBS patient with a clinically and demographically similar non-DBS patient--for example, in terms of age and symptom severity--and tracked survival from the date when surgery either took place for the DBS group; or might have theoretically taken place, for the non-DBS group. The results showed that patients treated with DBS survived an average of 6.3 years after the surgery, versus 5.7 years for the non-DBS patients, a difference of eight months. The study was published on November 18, 2017, in Movement Disorders.

“There is an immediate effect on patients who have DBS on their motor function - the dyskinesia [involuntary muscle movements] is either gone or greatly reduced. The patient can move around and do things they hadn't been able to,” said lead author Frances Weaver, MD, of HVAH. “The surgery may get patients back to where they were when the medication was effective. That is, DBS is typically as effective as the medication, if the medication was still working.”

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 chronic pain, Parkinson's disease, tremor, and dystonia. DBS directly changes brain activity in a controlled manner, its effects are reversible (unlike lesioning techniques), and it is one of only a few neurosurgical methods that allow blinded studies.

Related Links:
Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital
Northwestern University

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