The B.C. government is improving access to deep brain stimulation (DBS) for people with Parkinson’s disease.
DBS is treatment option for those with Parkinson’s whose symptoms can no longer be controlled with medication.
“We are establishing and expanding a provincial program at UBC Hospital that will maintain a centralized waitlist to ensure patients undergo the primary insertion DBS procedure as they are identified,” health minister Adrian Dix said. “This plan leverages solutions in the public health-care system to increase the volume of primary insertion procedures by 100 per cent over the existing baseline.”
The ministry of health has established a plan to address wait times for DBS. The province is increasing operating-room time for the treatments and also recruiting an additional qualified neurosurgeon with sufficient experience in primary insertions.
DBS uses electrical impulses to stimulate a target area in the brain. The stimulation affects movement by altering the activity in that area of the brain.
The procedure does not destroy any brain tissue and stimulation can be changed or stopped at any time. Surgery is required to implant the equipment that produces the electrical stimulation.
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The province announced on Tuesday that the expansion of the provincial DBS program is in addition to the government’s surgical strategy to increase surgical volumes through targeted investment, and maximizing best practices and efficiencies.
The number of primary insertion DBS surgeries will increase from a planning baseline of 36 in 2016-17 to 72 for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
DBS is described as life-changing for some people in the Parkinson’s community. CKNW Program Director Larry Gifford, who was diagnosed in 2017 with Parkinson’s, wrote about the procedure and noted the DBS is not a Parkinson’s cure.
“It’s a late-stage option for people with Parkinson’s who no longer see results from Levadopa-Carbidopa medication, which creates synthetic dopamine. In cases that qualify for DBS, fine wires are inserted into parts of the brain and are electrically stimulated. Usually, the wires connect to a battery that is implanted,” Gifford wrote.
“For approximately one per cent of Parkinson’s patients worldwide who experienced extreme physical symptoms and received the treatment, deep brain stimulation is miracle-like. DBS can improve tremor, rigidity, slow movement and walking problems. A friend of mine in the U.K., David Sangster, is hoping to get DBS and has been documenting his journey on YouTube.”
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Gifford describes Parkinson’s as a movement disorder, but more than a shake, a tremor, or a halted gait. Parkinson’s is a collection of symptoms which, in addition to everything you see, includes many non-physical symptoms like loss of smell, bladder issues, depression, anxiety, sleeping issues and more. There is no cure.
“People throughout B.C. with Parkinson’s disease will benefit from expanded access to deep brain stimulation procedures,” Vancouver Coastal Health’s head of neurosurgery Dr. Gary Redekop said. “We are committed to supporting the health, wellness and active lifestyles of our patients, and with these expanded services, more people with Parkinson’s disease will benefit from this life-changing surgery.”
As of January 2019, approximately 70 patients were waiting for primary DBS insertions.