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Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease and Essential Tremor with Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Therapy
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder which causes involuntary tremors, muscle rigidity, difficulty with walking and balance, among other symptoms.
Essential tremor (also known as benign familial tremor or action tremor) is a relatively common neurological condition that most often causes hand tremors. Many patients with essential tremor also experience head tremors. The tremors are usually felt when patients are reaching for an object such as a cup or when writing. The tremors vary from mild to debilitating. Many patients mistakenly think they have Parkinson’s disease. However, essential tremor is usually not an indication of Parkinson’s disease. Careful examination by neurologist should be done to differentiate Parkinson’s disease from essential tremor.
DBS is one of the most advanced therapies for treatment of Parkinson’s disease and Essential Tremor. The therapy involves stimulation of specific nuclei of the brain that are known to malfunction in Parkinson’s and Essential Tremor. In short, a small electrode is surgically implanted deep in the brain and a very small electric current is passed by a pacemaker-like box placed underneath the skin of the chest.
DBS therapy significantly reduces the need to use medicine to treat Parkinson’s and therefore eliminates dangerous side-effects. Moreover, DBS therapy significantly reduces the large fluctuations seen in hour-to-hour Parkinson’s symptoms. Medications used to treat Essential Tremor are largely ineffective and associated with significant side-effects. DBS therapy can significantly eliminate tremors that are often resistant to conventional medical therapy.
Neurologists can help patients with Essential Tremor determine eligibility for DBS therapy. As the symptoms of Parkinson’s can be seen in variety of different neurological disorders, the correct diagnosis is necessary before considering DBS. Also, many patients with the correct diagnosis may not be candidates for DBS due to other factors.
DBS rarely causes significant side-effects. Some may experience mild tingling or difficult pronouncing some words. Patients can turn the therapy “on” or “off” by passing a small magnetic device over their chest where the implanted small device is implanted.
Does health insurance including Medicare cover the cost of DBS therapy?
Yes! Most health insurance carriers and Medicare cover the cost of DBS therapy.