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Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that results in impaired movement for those afflicted with it. Parkinson’s falls under the category of motor system disorders, which are the product of the loss of a portion of the individual’s dopamine-producing brain cells. Severe tremors are the most characteristic symptom for those with the disorder, but patients also experience rigidity in their limbs, a slowing of movement, and a loss of balance and coordination. Approximately one million individuals within the United States are afflicted with this nervous system disorder, with 50,000 new diagnoses each year. The symptoms of the disorder can be quite severe and drastically inhibit the quality of life of a person afflicted, which is what makes any new treatment option so exciting.

At present, the most frequent courses of management for Parkinson’s disease are the use of medication to increase dopamine levels, physical therapy, and surgery in more extreme cases, and there is no known cure. However, in June, the FDA approved a promising new treatment method.

Surgical implants can help improve the quality of life for those with Parkinson’s disease.

Image Source: BURGER/PHANIE

This treatment uses a small device that can be implanted into the brains of individuals battling Parkinson’s to help better control the severity and frequency of their tremors as well as other mobility-limiting symptoms. Called the Brio Neurostimulation System, the device is a small battery-powered “pulse generator” that is embedded beneath the skin of the upper chest. Wires from this generator lead to specific locations within the brain based on the patient’s needs. The Brio device would best be utilized in patients whose symptoms could not adequately be controlled with medication alone. In the two clinical studies performed using the device, patients experienced statistically significant improvements in their Parkinson’s symptoms.

These positive results provide hope for those suffering from the disease and also are indicative of the fact that researchers are developing a better understanding of the disorder. The deep-brain stimulation device does not come without risk as those who use it are more prone to intracranial bleeding and infection, but overall, the FDA believes this device is safe enough for use. Hopefully, in coming years, even more effective treatments will be developed for Parkinson’s patients as researchers work towards finding a cure.

Feature Image Source: Heather Buckley

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