After working in the field of neuromodulation for the past 25 years, I have seen many advances in the field; both in our understanding of the nervous system, and new technology designed to target specific neuronal pathways that will offer the best outcome for patients. It is an exciting field with new investigations that lead to ever expanding knowledge. However, what really keeps me interested in the field after all these years is the opportunity and privilege to be a part of our patients lives on a daily basis. The picture and comment shared below from a grateful patient who had DBS with us two years ago says it all…
"I look back on my experience at Swedish with a grateful heart... thankful for every day I've been given.."
Tremor is a normal physiologic reaction to anxiety or stress, but it is not normal to have a tremor when performing typical daily activities.
People who develop a tremor while eating, drinking, writing or doing other common activities may have a movement disorder called Essential Tremor. This is actually the most common movement disorder, and can affect up to 4% of people over age 40. People who have this disorder can take medications to help minimize the tremor, but they don't often reduce the tremor by more than about half. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an excellent treatment option for people with severe tremor, and can nearly eliminate the tremor in many patients. Many patients aren't sure when their tremor is severe enough to warrant surgery, and much of our conversation in the office is to help answer this question.
There is no one answer that is right for everyone, but for me it has to do with how well someone is actually doing in their daily life:
Every year in the fall, our Swedish DBS Team has a table in the exhibit area at the Hope Conference for Parkinson's Disease. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet people in the PD community, and spend time chatting with our other neuroscience colleagues from centers in the area.
I am always surprised by the numbers of people who come by and say, “I am not ready, my disease is not bad enough, I am too young, or I haven't had PD long enough”...
I met with several patients this week to discuss their personal journey to making the decision to pursue DBS surgery. Not surprisingly, they were well educated about their disease and treatment options.
Each patient reminded me that there is a lot of information and misinformation about surgery for movement disorders.
The most important advice I can give any patient or family is...
Choosing to undergo elective deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery is a big deal.
I have walked through the process with hundreds of patients over the past 10 years and see many struggle with the choice to undergo brain surgery, as they seek to improve their quality of life. Many people have adapted to compensate for the movement disorder with creativity and determination.
In spite of this, after the best medical options have been exhausted, DBS is increasingly offered as a viable treatment option.
Do you or someone you know shake when raising a glass of water to drink or have problems writing a check at the grocery store?
If so, essential tremor may be the cause. Essential Tremor (ET) is the most common movement disorder and those suffering from it experience uncontrolled movement , usually of the hands and arms. Over 10 million Americans are diagnosed, yet many people have never heard of it. Some assume shaking is just a sign of aging or they fear they may have Parkinson’s disease. ET differs from Parkinson's in many ways, one being ET is an "action" tremor (more pronounced when trying to complete a task) where a person with Parkinson's has tremors more often at rest and the shaking may actually lessen during activity.
Essential Tremor is caused by overactive cells in the area of the brain called the thalamus. The thalamus is about the size of a walnut and within the brain there are two of them. If there are overactive cells in the right thalamus, the person will have signs of tremor on the left side and vice versa. Some patients suffer from tremor on both sides.
It is important to know Essential Tremor is a treatable condition.
If you’ve ever wanted to sit in the gallery of Grey’s Anatomy and watch a surgery, we have something for you that’s a little more powerful. On Friday, we invite you to tune in to a livestream of a procedure that changes patients’ lives.
On Friday, Dec. 16, 2011 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. (PST), Drs. Ron Young and Ryder Gwinn, surgeons from the Swedish Neuroscience Institute, will host a livestream on this page to discuss the affects of Essential Tremor (ET), the Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgical procedure used to treat ET and the other innovative treatment options for ET available at Swedish and throughout the country.
ET is a progressive neurological condition that causes a rhythmic trembling of the hands, head, voice, legs or trunk. It is often confused with Parkinson’s disease and is often un-diagnosed.
The livestream will feature a video stream of a recorded DBS surgical procedure performed at Swedish, accompanied by a live web chat led by Drs. Young and Gwinn. The DBS device is like a pacemaker for the brain. During the surgery, a tiny wire is implanted in the area of the brain that controls abnormal movement. This wire modifies the brain’s electrical signals to help control tremors and other abnormal movements.
It gets better
Not only will you have a front seat (from the comfort of home or wherever your mobile device is) to see a life-changing surgical procedure, but you can also ask questions live to our surgeons about the surgery, essential tremor, and any other related questions you may have (like what is Gamma Knife?). And, we’ll have patients who will share their stories about the procedure and how it has changed their lives – for the better.