Date: 12/2/2005

Community Hospital first in Northwest Indiana to implant deep brain stimulator to control Essential Tremors

MUNSTER — On Tuesday, Dec. 6 Community Hospital will become the first medical facility in Northwest Indiana to offer a new surgical treatment to control tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease and a condition known as Essential Tremor.

“By making this an important new treatment option available here, more people in our community will have access to medical advances that are helping to improve the quality of life for patients with Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s,” said Community Hospital Administrator Donald Fesko.

Known as a functional disability, Essential Tremor is the most common movement disorder, affecting the eating, drinking, fine movement, handwriting and self-esteem of one million Americans. This neurological disorder causes uncontrollable shaking, usually of the hands and sometimes the head and voice, that adversely affects patients’ independence and lifestyle.
There is no known cause, but 50 percent of ET patients have relatives with ET. Parkinson’s disease also causes trembling of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face, as well as stiffness of the limbs and trunk, slowness of movement and impaired balance and coordination.

A 65-year-old Griffith woman will be the first patient to receive the Medtronic Activa Tremor Control Therapy in Northwest Indiana. The two-surgery process will be performed by Neurosurgeon Kevin Waldron, M.D.

The implant is comprised of two parts: a lead that is threaded under the skin from the upper chest up the side of the neck and behind the ear into the brain; and an implantable pulse generator which is positioned under the skin of the chest and attached to the lead. The patient-controlled electrical stimulation sent from the generator is delivered to the thalamus portion of the brain, deep in the interior and involved in motor control.

The lead will be implanted in the first surgery while patients are awake. This is done so that the most effective stimulation site is selected. Patients are asked to reach for a cup and also to write their name before the stimulator is turned on, and again after, in order to determine proper placement. With correct placement of the stimulator tremors cease almost instantaneously.

A second surgery one week later will implant the pulse generator, a pacemaker-like device that is inserted under the skin just below the collarbone. Other than testing in the operating room to ensure proper placement, the stimulator is not switched on for four to six weeks to allow normal brain swelling from surgery to subside. The doctor will then program the device with a remote control and teach the patient how to use her own remote control to control her brain stimulation.

“I’m happy to be able to bring this state-of-the-art technology to the area,” said Waldron. “It’s an excellent option for patients who have not found significant relief from their medications, or who feel their medications are giving them too many side effects. Deep brain stimulation offers significant improvement in the quality of life with minimal side effects.”