Deep Brain Stimulation Providing Hope for Patients with Movement Disorders

The photo features the Deep Brian Stimulation team.

Meet the UBMD Deep Brain Stimulation program team. Photo: Paul Dressel.

Published June 26, 2018

Movement disorders can be some of the most complex conditions for a patient to live with. Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, essential tremor, and dystonia are complex to diagnose, as well as manage and treat. However, innovative techniques, like Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a treatment option available at the UBMD Comprehensive Movement Disorders Clinic. DBS can offer hope for patients and can help them better manage their conditions and even regain some motor control.

The DBS program is run jointly by UBMD Neurology and University at Buffalo Neurosurgery (UBNS), both part of UBMD Physicians’ Group.

What Is Deep Brain Stimulation?

“Deep brain stimulation is an effective treatment option in patients with movement disorder issues from Parkinson's disease, various forms of tremor and even now certain behavioral/emotional disorders that do not respond to medical therapy effectively alone.”
Irvin and Rosemary Smith Chair and Professor of Neurology

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is an approach that helps stimulate certain receptors in the brain that can misfire in patients with different types of movement disorders. Using a wire surgically inserted into the brain, an electrical current stimulates receptors and interrupts errant signals, allowing DBS to modify communication between the brain and the associated affected muscle groups. This allows doctors to directly address excessive movement or lack of movement issues.

Is DBS a New Treatment?

The concept of DBS sounds incredibly modern but has actually been available for nearly two decades in Western New York.

Kelly Andrzejewski, DO, PhD, director of the Movement Disorders clinic and Deep Brain Stimulation program at UBMD Neurology, said the DBS program was founded in 1998.

According to Dr. Andrzejewski, conditions treated with DBS include:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Essential tremor
  • Focal and generalized dystonias

The applications of DBS have changed over the past 20 years as well, with the FDA approving the approach for additional conditions and earlier intervention in recent years. Just a few years ago, the FDA approved DBS therapy for the treatment of symptoms in Parkinson’s patients earlier in their diagnosis, allowing for patients to receive treatment when symptoms are less pronounced and less severe. DBS also has shown benefits for other conditions, and earlier this month was approved by the FDA for the treatment of epilepsy, as reported by Medscape.

Gil Wolfe, MD, president of UBMD Neurology and chair of the Department of Neurology at Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, noted that during just the past six years, the size of the overall department faculty has doubled, and the number of clinical trials has tripled, helping to advance research and understanding of the efficacy of DBS and other neurological treatment options.

"Deep brain stimulation is an effective treatment option in patients with movement disorder issues from Parkinson's disease, various forms of tremor and even now certain behavioral/emotional disorders that do not respond to medical therapy effectively alone," said Wolfe.

Who May Qualify for DBS Surgery?

The team works together to assess each patient individually to determine if they may be a candidate for DBS. Not every patient may qualify, but Andrzejewski’s team meets with patients for a thorough discussion regarding their symptoms to decide with them the best management approach.

“A patient may be a candidate for DBS surgery if they have Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor or dystonia,” said Andrzejewski. “Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease who may be a candidate include those with motor symptoms that are not completely resolved with medication or that are experiencing frequent or delayed time to their Parkinson’s medication working.”

DBS is can also help to reduce involuntary movements (dyskinesias), and tremor in patients with Parkinson’s disease and essential tremors that are not well controlled with medication. Some patients with generalized dystonia or certain focal dystonias may also be candidates for DBS.

Learning More About DBS

In addition to Andrzejewski, who is a fellowship-trained Movement Disorders Neurologist, the joint Neurology-Neurosurgery team includes two functional neurosurgeons – Robert Plunkett, MD and Jonathan Riley, MD –  and DBS nurse specialists Pat Weigel, RN, BSN, RNFA and Rachel Shepherd, MA, RN, BSN.

Since DBS is such a complex procedure, the team offers bimonthly educational seminars to inform patients and their families about DBS therapy. During these sessions, the DBS team will explain the procedure in detail, including pre- and post-operative information, as well as what to expect during the surgery and aftercare. Current DBS patients are also invited to attend these educational seminars and can answer questions and share their experience with DBS therapy. The seminar is free, and serves as a group educational session for those looking to learn more about DBS.

The next session is scheduled for Monday, July 9 at UBNS’s Southtowns office located at 5959 Big Tree Road in Orchard Park. Learn more about upcoming seminars or register to attend on UBNS’s website.

Schedule a Consultation Today

The first step in learning whether you or a loved one may be a candidate for DBS is to schedule an appointment with Andrzejewski. To set up an appointment with the Movement Disorders Clinic, call the scheduling office at 716.932.6080, ext. 105.

For questions about DBS therapy, please contact Pat Weigel at 716.218.1000, ext. 6115.