2/26/02 - New Treatment for Parkinson's Disease

Anyone who suffers from Parkinson's Disease, or has a loved one who suffers, knows how the symptoms rob them of their freedom. Now,
there is a treatment that can eliminate the slowness, stiffness and shaking with tiny electrical pulses. Doctors are calling them
pacemakers for the brain, and some say they'll help treat people with Parkinson's Disease, and improve their quality of life.

Margie Beine nearly gave up on life. Twelve years after doctor's diagnosed her with Parkinson's, the disease consumed her. She says, "I felt miserable. I don't know how else to describe it. There was so little I could do for myself or anyone else. I became home-bound." But that changed last May, when her family encouraged her to try a new treatment for Parkinson's, one that would eliminate the shaking, stiffness, even some of her medicine. "I was so desperate," Margie says. "I was willing to try anything that would give me any relief and let me live a little longer and enjoy my life."

Relief would come from what doctors call a "pacemaker for the brain." They send out carefully controlled electrical pulses on one or both sides of the brain, shutting down cells in areas known to cause Parkinson's symptoms. The entire device is powered by a tiny battery-operated generator, implanted in the patient's chest. Neurosurgeon Dr. Fernando Vale says, "B asically we are treating the symptoms, and by treating the symptoms, we improve the quality of life." Margie says that's exactly what it did for her, changed her life. "No w I can do things. It's my joy. I take joy. If it's giving a smile or a friendly phone call to someone shut in like I was," Margie says. " I can do things for my family again."

Although doctors have used the device for about a year, it's been considered experimental and only available to a select few, but now that's changing. Just last month, the FDA approved the treatment for all symptoms of Parkinson's Disease, meaning it will soon be available to more patients like Margie." Margie says, "It 's miraculous. It really is. I just don't know how else to describe it. It is really miraculous what they can do for you."

Doctors are now researching whether the same device could work for other neurological illnesses including epilepsy and psychiatric disorders. If you'd like more information on the medical device or Parkinson's Disease, talk to your doctor, or log onto the website www.parkinson.org and type "brain pacemaker" in the search category.