Parkinson's Disease: Surgical Options. Current treatment options in neurology Bronte-Stewart, H. 2003; 5 (2): 131–47

Abstract

Surgical therapy for Parkinson's disease (PD) has been a treatment option for over 100 years. Advances in the knowledge of basal ganglia physiology and in techniques of stereotactic neurosurgery and neuroimaging have allowed more accurate placement of lesions or "brain pacemakers" in the sensorimotor regions of target nuclei. This, in turn, has led to improved efficacy with fewer complications than in the past. Currently, bilateral deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) or the internal segment of the globus pallidus (GPi) is the preferred option (and is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration) for the surgical treatment of PD. The most important predictors for outcome for DBS for PD are patient selection and electrode location. Patients should have a documented preoperative improvement from dopaminergic medication of at least 30% in the patient's Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale motor disability scores. A levodopa challenge may be needed to document the best "on" state. Dementia or active cognitive decline must be excluded. Active psychiatric disease should be treated preoperatively. Patients should be motivated, with good support systems, and committed to the postoperative management of DBS therapy. Deep brain stimulation should be considered when the patient begins to experience dyskinesia and on-off fluctuations despite optimal medical therapy. Deep brain stimulation is not a good option at the final stages of the disease because of the increased incidence of dementia and severe comorbidity. The DBS electrode should be placed in the sensorimotor region of the GPi or STN. Subthalamic nucleus and GPi DBS can improve all motor aspects of PD, as well as predictable "on" time, without dyskinesia or fluctuations. On average, STN DBS results in a greater reduction of dopaminergic medication compared with GPi DBS. Because of the smaller size of the target region, the pulse generator battery life is longer with STN then with GPi DBS. Deep brain stimulation programming is a skill that is readily learned and may be required of all neurologists in the future. Emerging surgical therapies are restorative, and they aim to replace or regenerate degenerating dopaminergic neurons. These include embryonic mesencephalic tissue transplantation, human embryonic stem cell transplantation, and gene-derived methods of intracerebral implantation of growth factors and dopamine- producing cell lines. It will be important to determine whether DBS, if performed before the onset of motor response complications to medical therapy, may prevent this stage of disease altogether or delay it for a significant period of time. The same question applies to the future with restorative therapy.

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