How medical technology helps fight Parkinson’s disease
(StatePoint) When Ann Hanley was 49, she noticed that she had persistent stiffness in her shoulders and that her arms did not swing normally when she walked. This became especially pronounced when it affected her ability to attend horse races with her husband, who runs a farm and breeds champion racehorses. After consulting several specialists, a neurologist admitted that she suffered from Parkinson’s disease (PD). The diagnosis came as a shock, as Hanley previously viewed PD as a disease primarily affecting older men. Initially, the thought of living with a progressive disease was overwhelming to Hanley – a self-proclaimed social butterfly – and so maintained her desire to be active.
PD is the second most common progressive neurodegenerative disease, affecting more than one million people nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although it cannot be cured, medications are often prescribed to help manage the symptoms. Unfortunately, some of these drugs are associated with side effects such as involuntary movements and motor fluctuations. And over time, these drugs can become less effective.
Now 63, Hanley is a true expert on her condition and an advocate for other patients. Seven years ago, she began volunteering at the University of Kentucky Hospital, following a leading neurosurgeon who specializes in a treatment for PD called deep brain stimulation (DBS), which helps patients to manage the motor symptoms of the disease when drugs alone are no longer effective. DBS uses a small medical device implanted in the body and connected to leads that stimulate part of the brain to control motor functions affected by movement disorders, including tremors, slowness, and stiffness.
Until recently, doctors had to rely on older DBS technology. However, the Boston Scientific Vercise Genus DBS System, approved for use in 2021, is designed to tailor therapy to meet the specific needs of each patient and allow flexible delivery of pacing therapy as disease progresses. . This is important because PD progresses over time and no one experiences the same progression.
“Ultimately, with early enough intervention, DBS is a tool that can help people with PD reduce tremors, increase mobility, and even reduce the amount of medication needed – providing respite from them. unpleasant side effects, ”says Dr. Michele Tagliati, MD, director, Movement Disorders Program, Cedars Sinai (Los Angeles). “In particular, this therapy is designed for the comfort and convenience of the patient and gives physicians the ability to manage a patient’s ever-changing needs as Parkinson’s disease progresses. “
Hanley knew it was time to try DBS herself when her walking slowed, hunched over, had relentless back pain, and felt severe tremors in her right hand and leg. . After undergoing the procedure, she was amazed at how much DBS had helped her.
“When they turned on the device, I had an indescribable moment. My symptoms suddenly subsided and I felt more in control of my movements,” says Hanley.
With DBS, Hanley was able to completely get rid of his Parkinson’s disease medications and experienced increased mobility. Although results vary among patients, she is now able to walk, cycle and swim regularly, and attend all horse races with ease.
Today, Hanley is an advocate for DBS therapy and volunteers support other patients, helping them with their appointments and even holding their hands during the DBS procedure. She also raised $ 3.5 million through her fundraising efforts to support Parkinson’s disease research at the University of Kentucky Hospital.
To learn more, visit DBSandMe.com, a resource developed by Boston Scientific.
If you or a loved one has PD, consider talking to your doctor about the most appropriate treatment and whether DBS is an option for you.