(Inside Science TV) – About one million Americans live with Parkinson's disease with symptoms ranging from tremors and slow movement to problems with walking and balance. Surgery can help reduce some symptoms, but the procedures used usually require patients to be awake.
Roger Levitt, for example, lived with rigid hands and feet, severe leg pain and tremors from Parkinson's for almost 10 years.
The traditional used to treat Parkinson's can help relieve his symptoms, but it would also require him to stay awake during the surgery and go off the medications that reduce and suppress his Parkinson's symptoms
“I said to myself, 'I don’t want anything to do with it,'” said Levitt.
Now, the surgery – called deep brain stimulation – can be done while patients are asleep or under anesthesia while still taking their medications.
“This is a new technology that allows us to use image guidance during the surgery," said Hooman Azmi, a neurosurgeon at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.
During the surgery, doctors implant a thin wire into the area of the brain that is responsible for movement disorders. An MRI scanner is used during surgery to give doctors real-time, precise images of the patient's brain as they work.
“Our target, the area that we put this wire, is a very small nucleus the size of a pea," said Azmi.
The wire sends electrical pulses to the area to restore normal brain rhythms and stop some symptoms.
“What’s unique is our ability to continuously image what we’re doing,” explained Azmi.
The surgery dramatically improved Roger's symptoms, and his life.
“There’s no question in my mind that my quality of life improved dramatically far beyond what I even thought was possible," said Levitt.
The system, which is being used in many medical centers in the U.S., can also be used to treat other movement disorders such as essential tremors and dystonia.
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Hooman Azmi, North Jersey Brain and Spine Center