Healthy Living

Advancements in Brain Pacemakers May Improve Parkinson's Patients' Quality of Life

Advancements in Brain Pacemakers May Improve Parkinson's Patients' Quality of Life

In deep brain stimulation (DBS), doctors open the skull and implant electrical leads into brain tissue and connect the wires into a small device that transmits little amounts of electricity. Deep brain stimulation is able to benefit those with Parkinson's disease, and other similar neurological issues.

Involuntary shaking or tremors can be lessened or completely removed by undergoing this procedure. In addition, there is a chance for patients to walk and talk normally. On YouTube, many videos are uploaded that show the benefits of a DBS device and how it slowly enables a patient to live a normal life again.

DBS is also known as a brain pacemaker. According to Dr. Michael Okun, who is the chairman for the Department of Neurology at the University of Florida and the medical director of the Parkinson's Foundation, it can block erratic signals coming from the impaired brain cells and return to the natural rhythm of the brain.

A hole is made in the skull of the patient and electrical leads are embedded into the tissue of the brain during surgery. After the surgeons thread out the leads, they close the skull. They pass the wires behind the patient’s ears, down the neck, and in front of the chest. A device that has the same size as a watch connects all these wires and release a regulated amount of electricity. From the wires to the generator, all of these are located underneath the skin.

DBS: A promising and developing medical advancement

The generator used is a complete unit that has a battery, so pulses of electricity can be sent to the leads. As a result, it can lessen or remove the weakening aspects of neurological diseases and stimulate specific parts of the brain. The amount of electricity and the switch are controlled by a small remote control.

Medtronic, which is a prime manufacturer of DBS devices, has been active in this industry for the longest time in the USA. In 2002, it received an approval for the use of DBS devices for Parkinson’s in an advanced stage. In 2016, the FDA allowed this company to let patients use a Medtronic device for patients with Parkinson’s disease for 4 years.

In addition to Medtronic, Abbott Laboratories has also obtained this kind of business when it acquired St. Jude Medical in the past year and Boston Scientific, which vends DBS devices in Europe and aims to get approval in the USA by the end of the year.

The cost of DBS

According to the National Parkinson Foundation, if a patient opts to have a DBS surgery, it may cost around $35,000 to $50,000. For a procedure done bilaterally or a surgery done on both sides of the brain, it may cost around $70,000 to $100,000. Aside from the surgery, these costs cover the fee for devices, anesthesia, physician fees, and hospital bills. The DBS device itself is $10,000. For a Medtronic DBS unit, it is priced at $23,000. Medicare and most health insurance companies will cover most of the expenses for this medical procedure.