To meet Dick Osborne, you’d never know that a mild electrical current is being sent to his brain. It’s that current — delivered through a procedure known as deep brain stimulation — that keeps the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease from disrupting the 80-year-old’s life.
“Amazing” is how Osborne describes his results following his deep brain stimulation procedure performed in March at University of Michigan Health. But getting there was a long journey, with the ups and downs many Parkinson’s patients experience.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder caused by irregular electrical signals in the areas of the brain that control movement. Symptoms often begin with tremors in one hand or leg; stiffness of the arms, legs and trunk; and slowness of movement. Although more common in those over the age of 60, approximately 10% of individuals with the disease are under 50.
For patients like Osborne whose condition fluctuates throughout the day, deep brain stimulation is often the recommended treatment. With DBS, a current of electricity stimulates the cells in a specific part of an individual’s brain. The current reaches the brain through wires, or leads, attached to a small pacemaker-like device implanted under the skin near the collarbone or chest area. This device, a neurostimulator, delivers a specific amount of current to the brain based on an individual’s symptoms.