Surgery for Parkinson’s Disease

11-3-05 - Thousands of new cases of Parkinson’s disease are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, but Texomans have new hope with a rare surgery that implants something called a “deep brain stimulator.” That operation is performed right in Grayson County.

Doctors say it can be compared to a pace maker—a device implanted under the chest wall, with two thin, wire leads that run under the skin and behind the ears into brain tissue. The deep brain stimulator relieves the neurological complications that cause the extreme tremors associated with the disease. While the procedure has been around since the late 1980’s, few doctors perform it and those that do are usually in large cities. But as of six months ago Texoma Neurology Associates became the first practice between Dallas and Oklahoma City to perform the surgery.

“To offer such a treatment to patients between Dallas and Oklahoma right here in Grayson County makes us very proud,” says Dr. Bharathy Sundaram.

Dr. Sundaram says that patients who take medication therapy for Parkinson’s often develop worse symptoms over time. 60 to 70 percent of her patients that have a DBS are able to get off the medication therapy. Anne Winkle of Bells, TX, is one of those patients.

“I first started to notice just a slight tremor in my right hand, and it gradually got worse. I went to a doctor and said there's something wrong,” says Anne.

She was diagnosed in 1995 at age 42. For nine years, doctors watched as Anne took oral medication therapy and her conditioned worsened. Anne’s illness forced her to leave work and even prevented her from performing simple motor tasks. Last December, Dr. Sundaram suggested Anne see a specialist in Dallas for her DBS. Six months ago, Dr. Sundaram’s practice began the procedure in Grayson County.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for patients. Still, most of the neurological community is not aware that the procedure is available. It is not without any complications,” says Dr. Sundaram.

She says a deep brain stimulator isn’t a first step for treatment; patients must go through medication therapy. The procedure is an expensive and long process, requiring doctors to regularly monitor the device.

But in Anne’s case, the surgery gave her back her old life.

“It really changed everything for me,” says Anne. “I now consider it a privilege now to work, instead of something I have to do.”