WEDNESDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- Deep brain stimulation, a treatment that involves the surgical implantation of wires in the brain that deliver an electrical current, could improve motor functions for at least three years in people with advanced Parkinson's disease, new research suggests.
The study is the longest-running comparison of the effects of stimulating the two different areas of the brain that are the most common sites for implantation.
Researchers randomly assigned 159 patients with Parkinson's disease to receive deep brain stimulation either in an interior area of the brain called the subthalamic nucleus (STN) or in a less studied and larger exterior brain area called the globus pallidus interna (GPi). The two groups had similar improvements in common Parkinson's symptoms, such as tremors, muscle rigidity and speech, and those improvements held 36 months after the surgery.
The study was published online June 20 in Neurology.
"We've demonstrated that either [area] improves motor function," said study author Frances Weaver, director of the Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care at the Hines VA Hospital, in Illinois.
"There was primarily a focus on stimulating the STN area because stimulating that area could reduce the amount of medication that an individual was taking for Parkinson's," Weaver explained.
In addition, as the authors wrote, there are more data available supporting the long-term benefits of STN than GPi stimulation. A 2010 study reported that motor improvements associated with STN stimulation were sustained for up to 10 years in a small group of patients.
"Our data really suggest that [health care] providers should think about both targets and what else is going on and not just arbitrarily pick one over the other," Weaver said. For example, a Parkinson's patient who is having mental problems might do better wit
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