You may notice the outward signs first. The tremors, the stiffness, the classic signs of Parkinson’s disease. Medications to treat the disease often end up causing drug induced involuntary tremors. Now doctors are trying a slightly different approach to an old treatment.
Dr. Jerrold Vitek has been researching Parkinson's Disease for fifteen years. But it's his most recent work that he's most proud of. "The whole goal of all this is to really find out what's the best way to do these procedures for patients to give them the best outcome over the long term." The procedure he's talking about is a pallidotomy, a surgery that used to be common for Parkinson's patients. "Pallidotomy is where you make a destructive lesion in the part of the brain called the basal ganglia. You're basically removing a piece of the brain that is now becoming a problem and creating disruptions downstream." Taking that piece out curbs many of the outward signs of Parkinson's. "The tremors, the rigidity, the slowness, the extra movements form medication the dyskinesias."
Typically results are seen on the side of the body opposite the side of the brain where doctors make the lesion. Dr. Vitek noticed something different. "The thing we saw that has not been reported before was the benefit on both sides of the body which persisted out two years in many patients." He says what's different could be where and how big they're making the cut. Soon after Mary Selmen was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 19-85 her tremors and jerky movements took over. "I just thought it was the end of my life. "
Mary had a pallidotomy and seven years later, the shaky hands and other signs of Parkinson's are greatly reduced. "it just made a new person of me." Though her tremor have all but vanished, Mary's not settling. With her daughter Laurie and grandson Zach likely standing right by her side.
Doctor Vitek says many of his patients are experiencing benefits on both sides of their body for three years and longer. He says with long term benefits like these, it could lead to new approaches and different views on how this procedure is done.