Because April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, Memorial Hermann Hospital invited KHOU into one of its operating rooms.
Doctors gave us rare access to a surgery that can stop symptoms like tremors, stiffness and slowness for Parkinson’s patients.
The procedure is called deep brain stimulation.
Even though the surgery has been around for years, doctors say only about ten percent of Parkinson’s disease patients take advantage of it.
Randy Ducote, 49, started noticing tremors 10 years ago. He’d always been active and coaches his son’s football and baseball teams. That’s why he says his diagnosis was devastating.
“It got to the point where I didn’t want to be around other people. I didn’t want to answer the phone. I don’t want to say I was depressed, but I wasn’t excited to get out of bed like I was a year before. Before I realized what I had,” Ducote said.
He decided to try deep brain stimulation.
During the procedure, doctors insert electrodes into the brain while the patient is awake. Electrical stimulation can override the malfunctions in the brain.
“This is a very durable treatment that can adapt to your life, for the rest of your life,” said Dr. Albert Fenoy, neurosurgeon with Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute and UTHealth. “It’s adjustable over time, and should last for years and years to come.”
Fenoy hopes more patients opt to have the surgery in the future.
“It is not a cure. There is no cure, but it is a way to improve patients’ quality of life,” he said.
While it doesn’t work for everyone, for Ducote, the results were immediate.
“Quality of life just wasn’t there anymore. But after the surgery, I noticed my tremors stopped completely. Look at that, no tremors at all,” Ducote said.
Deep brain stimulation can be used in other ways, too. Right now, doctors at Memorial Hermann Hospital say there’s an ongoing trial testing the procedure on people suffering from depression.