Maria Chitica of Anaheim was disabled for nearly 15 years before she finally found relief from Parkinson’s disease. Maria, and fellow sufferers of movement disorders, are benefiting from a revolutionary, revitalizing procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS).
“I had lost so much function and my medications weren’t effective,” says Maria. “My husband, who worked as a truck driver, had to stay home from work to help me. I didn’t sleep well and had to stay in the same position all night. I walked with a cane. Simple tasks like washing the dishes or folding clothes became impossible. I couldn’t hold or hug my grandbabies. I was missing out on life.”
Movement Disorders Stopped In Their Tracks
DBS is an advanced, minimally invasive surgical procedure that has been proven effective in helping patients to overcome the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, as well as essential tremor and dystonia, or involuntary muscle contraction causing uncontrollable, repetitive movement.
Devin K. Binder, M.D., neurosurgeon at Orange Coast Memorial, likens DBS to a pacemaker, but one that changes the rhythm of the brain rather than the heart. He began using DBS when it first emerged 10 years ago. Last year, Dr. Binder performed more than 50 DBS procedures through the Parkinson's and Movement Disorders Institute at Orange Coast Memorial.
“DBS is an exciting, life-changing treatment for properly selected patients,” says Dr. Binder. “Oftentimes we can completely remove tremors and rigidity of movement.”
Precise and Painless
DBS delivers electrical stimulation to targeted areas in the brain that control movement, blocking the abnormal nerve signals that cause tremors and the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
DBS involves a device called a neurostimulator, which is placed in the upper chest. This neurostimulator is attached by a hair-thin wire to electrodes threaded into the precise area of the brain causing the motor issues.
Before placement, the patient receives a specialized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scan to locate the exact target within the brain where electrical nerve signals are generated.
“Patients remain awake during this outpatient procedure. They even participate by moving their hands or feet to indicate whether tremors have subsided,” says Dr. Binder.
Patients’ motor functions typically improve within two to three months. Achieving the full benefit may take up to a year.
“I’ll never forget coming home after my procedure. I went to bed and for the first time in years my body was able to rest. It was a beautiful day,” says Maria. “My whole life has changed. I’m no longer afraid to drive, and I crawl around with my grandkids. I’m so grateful to Dr. Binder and Orange Coast Memorial.”