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Brain Surgery Might Ease Tough-to-Treat OCD
Date:4/17/2012

By Lisa Esposito
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- Most people with obsessive-compulsive disorder manage their symptoms through talk therapy and medication. But for some, severe OCD can take over their lives. A few eventually turn to brain surgery, and a new study shows how they fared.

The study included 63 adult patients who underwent "stereotactic anterior cingulotomy" at Massachusetts General Hospital from 1989 to 2010, with long-term data available for 59 of the cases.

"Half these patients had a very significant improvement in their symptoms -- more than 35 percent improvement in the OCD scale that we use," said Dr. Sameer Sheth, chief resident in the department of neurosurgery at the hospital.

"These are patients who are completely refractory (unresponsive) to medical or behavioral therapy and have gone for years, if not decades, completely incapacitated," he added.

Patients who responded "are often still taking their medications and they're still undergoing behavioral therapy, but it's actually making a difference," Sheth said. "They're able to stop the hand washing, stop the checking, stop the hoarding, all these symptoms they had before, and carry on with their lives."

He was scheduled to present the research Tuesday at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons' annual meeting, in Miami.

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder have recurrent, upsetting thoughts that lead them to perform repetitive behaviors or rituals to try and relieve their anxiety. According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, one in 100 adults in the United States has obsessive-compulsive disorder, and half are severe cases.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms in severe cases "can take over the entire day," said Kiara Timpano, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of Miami who works with patients with OCD.

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