Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), which is effective in Parkinson's Disease, is now showing some promise to benefit people suffering from some psychiatric conditions as well.
Dr. Douglas Anderson, a professor of neurological surgery at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine who first used DBS to treat a middle-aged woman confined to a wheelchair due to her Parkinson's, says that he has used the technique to treat patients for obsessive-compulsive disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, and debilitating headaches also.
Deep brain stimulation involves implantation of an electrode that delivers mild electrical signals deep in the brain, which in turn help reorganise the organ's electrical impulses.
"DBS can quell or eliminate tremors. It increases the percentage of time that a patient is functional. It also improves a patient's ability to move arms and legs in a more coordinated fashion. And there is a lessoning of bradykinesia," said Dr. Anderson.
Describing DBS as a "pacemaker for the brain", Dr. Anderson said that though it did not stop the disease from progressing, the treatment might significantly improve symptoms in the right patients, especially tremors.
Dr. Anderson also said that although patients' response to treatment might vary, overall he was pleased with the results.
"Patients are more mobile and can move more freely. Occasionally their medications can be reduced," he said.
He, however, strongly believes that collaboration with neurologists is vitatl to the overall successful treatment plans for patients with movement disorders.
"This treatment is an adjunct, not a substitute, for medications," he cautioned.
While making a presentation at the American Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, Dr. Anderson revealed how DBS was used to treat body dysmorphic disorder in one patient, and debilitating headaches in another.
"The benefits of DBS for intractable psychiatric conditions outweigh the risks," Dr. Anderson said.
"The great advantage of DBS over earlier surgical treatments is that it's reversible. If there are side effects, we can turn the device off and reverse them," he added.