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Researchers Try Early Surgical Intervention to Treat Parkinson's Symptoms

ression.

“For this study, which is to measure safety and tolerability of the device in these patients, we'll be using DBS the same way we're treating advanced patients, only much earlier,” Charles said.

“We hope to obtain preliminary data that will tell us whether a larger trial is warranted.”

The study's protocol calls for a small number of patients to be enrolled and followed over a four-year period.

“If this proves successful we hope to launch a larger trial in the future to test the question of whether this therapy can change or slow the progression of Parkinson's disease,” he said.

In 1996 VUMC became one of the first centers in the United States to implant stimulators into the brains of Parkinson's disease patients with advanced symptoms.

DBS is a device which emits a continuous, tunable electrical current, attached to a fine wire, that runs from the unit and is carefully implanted into a specific location deep within the brain. When activated, the DBS device acts on the subthalamic nucleus with electrical stimulation to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson's. In many patients the device produces dramatic results.

Charles and other researchers in Vanderbilt's Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery have devoted a significant portion of their academic careers to research to find better ways to slow disease progression and improve symptoms of Parkinson's patients. VUMC has been one of the nation's leading centers in Parkinson's research for more than 20 years.

“Our experience has found if patients who receive DBS are properly selected they typically can reduce medicines by about 25 percent. Afterward they can extend the period of time they have a positive impact from their medicine by about 50 percent,” Charles said. “So the impact on their overall condition is very good.”

Charles said trial participants may help advance the field of research in Parkinson's
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