Treatment stimulates life expectancy rates in Parkinson's patients

Published: by Interim HealthCare in Chronic Disease, Senior Care

A new study published in Movement Disorders examined the effects of deep brain stimulation on the life expectancy of patients suffering from Parkinson's disease. Researchers at the Edward Hines, Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital in Illinois found a modest survival advantage in patients who received the procedure, when compared to those treated with only medication.

As Parkinson's disease is more common in older adults, the average age of the study participants was 69. With other cognitive diseases common in seniors as well, research published in JAMA Neurology found DBS may also be safe for those living with Parkinson's dementia. Thus, with the possibility of significant and immediate improvements in disease symptoms, researchers continue to study the effects of the treatment to determine its future use.

Deep brain stimulation

DBS is a surgical procedure intended to treat the neurological symptoms of the disease, including tremors, rigidity, stiffness, slowed movement and walking issues. Surgeons implant a battery-operated medical device to electronically stimulate the areas of the brain that control movement. This implantable pulse generator is similar to a heart pacemaker. The procedure is currently only used on patients whose medication is no longer working to quell the symptoms. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke identified advantages of the treatment: DBS involves minimal permanent surgical changes, the implant can be removed if necessary and stimulation from the IPG can easily be adjusted to meet the patient's conditions.

After undergoing the surgery, many patients experience a decrease in their symptoms, and are sometimes able to reduce their medication intake. While previous studies found DBS can improve motor function, they did not focus on how the treatment affected life expectancy.

Longer survival rates

The researchers studied data from VA and Medicare on over 1200 veterans. Half of them had Parkinson's disease and received the DBS implant surgery. The other half also had Parkinson's, but did not have the stimulation device. When they compared the data from the two groups, they found those with DBS treatment survived an average of 6.3 years after the surgery, versus 5.7 years for those who did not get the surgery. While only an eight month difference, the researchers also reported an increase in quality of life in the DBS patients.

In addition to medications and DBS procedures, lifestyle changes can always help prevent symptoms from getting worse. Good overall nutrition, physical activity and certain therapies can help. However, the researchers hope more studies will be done to examine how life expectancy and survival rates can be improved with DBS

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