New Parkinson's surgical procedure shows lasting benefits, according to Emory researchers

A new method of performing a surgical procedure in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients is providing long-lasting symptom relief for those with moderate to advanced stages of the disease, according to the results of an international pilot study. Researchers in Cuba, in collaboration with an international team of investigators from Emory University and other centers in the U.S. and Spain, presented their findings on Oct. 14 at the American Neurological Association's (ANA) 127th Annual Meeting in New York City.

"Brain surgery is not a new concept in treating Parkinson's patients," says Jorge Juncos, M.D., associate professor of neurology, Emory University School of Medicine and co-investigator of this study. "However, Cuban neurologists, neurophysiologists and neurosurgeons are taking one of these surgeries, which they've been performing since the mid-90s, to a new level and the results continue to be promising." Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the central nervous system affecting over one million people in the United States.

Symptoms include tremor, slowness of movement and stiffness of muscles. The loss of nerve cells in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra creates an imbalance that disrupts normal movement. Although certain medications, such as levodopa or L-dopa, can reduce the symptoms, they do not slow the progressive deterioration in function of PD.

The surgical procedure used in this study involves going deep into the brain, to a region called the subthalamic nucleus, to destroy small clusters of nerve cells that contribute to the above motor symptoms. The subthalamic nucleus helps control movement on the opposite side of the body. Past research has shown that by removing (i.e. "lesioning") or disabling (i.e. electrically "jamming") this and other select areas in the brain improves motor function in patients with PD.

Three years ago at an ANA meeting, Cuban neuroscientists Lazaro

Contact: Janet Christenbury
Emory University Health Sciences Center

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