The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brain pacemaker in Parkinson’s cure

Over the years, 42-year-old Sevantilal Sharma, a corporate executive from Dhakuria, has tried all sorts of medication to treat his Parkinson’s disease, which causes involuntary movement on both sides of the body in the form of tremors. But to no avail. Recently, a doctor friend suggested that he go for implantation of a ‘deep brain stimulator’, or pacemaker of the brain.

To treat an increasing number of Parkinson’s disease cases and other neurological ailments leading to movement disorders, the National Neurosciences Centre (NNC) at Peerless Hospital and B.K. Roy Research Centre has emerged as the first institute in eastern India to commence brain stimulator implants.

NNC alone receives over 300 Parkinson’s disease cases in a month and another 500 are reported in other hospitals, like the Bangur Institute of Neurology, private institutes like Calcutta Medical Research Institute and AMRI-Apollo Hospitals, besides the five government hospitals in the city.

“Movement disorders have assumed alarming proportions over the past several months due to the deficiency of some chemicals in parts of the brain. Most of these diseases respond to medicines at an early stage, but gradually, medicines become ineffective and trigger side-effects,” says Milind Deogaonkar, head of the department of neurosurgery at Peerless.

“Patients with Parkinson’s have an otherwise sharp brain, but movement problems soon render them functionless,” Deogaonkar explained.

The cost of the brain stimulator has been estimated at Rs 3.5 to 4 lakh, depending on the quality of the machine. “It is a hassle-free procedure, which corrects movement disorders,” adds neurosurgeon Rahul De.

The deep brain stimulators (DBS) are basically pacemakers, which generate small electrical impulses at regular intervals. The pacemaker has a lead attached to it, which is again attached to an electrode.

The surgeon places the electrode exactly at the root of the problem in the brain and the pacemaker is placed in the front portion of the chest below the skin, like the cardiac pacemaker.

Whenever there is an involuntary movement or tremor, an electrode automatically reaches the disturbed site and stops the tremor within seconds.

At present, doctors carry out surgeries to treat patients with such movement disorders, often with disastrous consequences.

“I have come across cases where surgeries to cure movement disorders have caused damage to healthy tissues. The brain stimulators are a much safer option,” Deogaonkar adds.

The surgery can be done on patients suffering from bilateral Parkinson’s disease also, the doctors say.

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