For people with severe Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, or dystonia, everyday tasks, such as holding a glass of water, pose an extreme challenge. Medications may help for a while, but can become ineffective over time. Fortunately, there is an alternative.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a safe, effective treatment for relieving symptoms of severe movement disorders. DBS patients typically experience life-changing results. They may be able to drink from a glass, use a pen, or perform other tasks that were elusive before.
In a DBS procedure, a specially trained neurosurgeon implants tiny electrodes into areas of the brain that control movement. In a second procedure, the electrodes are attached to an implanted generator, similar to a heart pacemaker, which sends signals to the electrodes in the brain. Later, the generator is programmed by a neurologist, who determines the optimal setting for normalizing brain activity so that tremors, stiffness, slowness, involuntary movements and gait problems subside.
SLUCare neurosurgeon Dr. Richard Bucholz has performed hundreds of DBS surgeries. He has developed and patented surgical tools that make DBS less invasive and more comfortable for patients. Among his innovations is a collar that holds the patient's head throughout the procedure — without the cumbersome frame used by some neurosurgeons. It's an approach that helps patients, who are awake during surgery, to feel more at ease.
Using minimally invasive techniques has other benefits, too:
The key to successful DBS treatment is making sure the patient is a good candidate for the procedure. At SLUCare, this process involves a team of specialists:
Dr. Pratap Chand is a movement disorders neurologist, who works with patients before surgery to determine whether DBS is the right solution for them. He performs microelectrode recording from the brain, assists during surgery and provides follow-up care afterward, programming the electrodes to the patient's individual needs.
Dr. Lauren Schwarz is a neuropsychologist who works with patients considering DBS. She evaluates each patient for cognition, anxiety and depression — all issues that must be addressed and under control before surgery. She also provides counseling for patients and their families about what to expect if they move forward with DBS.
Dr. Richard Bucholz is the SLUCare functional neurosurgeon who performs DBS surgery. Dr. Bucholz works with the DBS team before surgery to evaluate the case and plan the procedure. In surgery, he uses StealthStation image-guided navigation, a state-of-the-art system he invented, to find the right target within the brain to produce the best possible outcome. Dr. Bucholz is also co-inventor of Next Frame — the instrument used to place electrodes during surgery.