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Vastly underused method to treat Parkinson's Disease available here locally

Vastly underused method to treat Parkinson's Disease available here locally

Deep Brain Stimulation is not a new treatment for Parkinson's Disease patients, but experts say it is a vastly underused one. It's offered at Sacred Heart Hospital, a fact doctors say many local patients don't know, which leads them to traveling away for the procedure.

Mrs. Sarah Lee Winters is Dr. Charles Wolff's star patient. The Sacred Heart Hospital neurosurgeon is checking in with her after two brain surgeries over the last eight months.

Before her procedures, Winters' Parkinson's Disease symptoms had become increasingly debilitating.

"She had a lot of stiffness in her arms and her legs," Dr. Wolff explained. "Freezing spells where she couldn't move and tremors."

After taking brain images and pinpointing the precise areas of her brain needing attention, Wolff implanted two electrodes within Mrs. Winter's skull.

"We interfere with one of the feedback loops in the brain. Basically increase the effect of the dopamine she does have. That's the problem with Parkinson's is the dopamine producing cells die," he explained.

That lack of dopamine leads to large motor skill problems.

"We're actually stimulating so fast, we're stunning a small part of the brain," Wolff expanded. "We're not actually allowing neurons to fire. We're actually stunning with them so they don't fire."

Jimmie Winters is very impressed with his wife's progress.

"When they did the first one, I was just awed," he beamed.

A small battery pack under Mrs. Winters' skin communicates with her electrodes. Doctor Wolff programs the batter to tell the electrodes how often to fire.

Mr. Winters said his wife is doing 90 percent better since her surgeries, with fewer prescription drugs.

"Instead of her having to take five Parkinson's medicines, she's only gonna have to take two," he said.

Her beautiful smile is back. Before the surgeries, Mrs. Winters often had "frozen" facial expressions.

Wolf emphasized that Deep Brain Stimulation does not slow the progression of Parkinson's Disease, that is only alleviates symptoms.

That's plenty enough for this couple, who have been dealing with the disease since 1999.

"Would I recommend it to anyone? Yes, yes, yes I would," Mr. Winters smiled.