A new surgical brain stimulation procedure is now available for people with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, thanks to doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The deep brain stimulation procedure, or DBS, sends signals to parts of the brain using electrodes inserted through the skull and connected to controllers in the chest. In the past, the same procedure has been used to treat Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. It’s also been experimentally used to treat depression.
The process is performed by drilling holes through the skull in combination with local anesthetic, then threading thin electrodes to the target areas of the brain. The test can be performed while a patient is awake to see if the obsessive feelings are lessened.
After performing the test, doctors put the patient under general anesthetic to thread wires from the electrodes beneath the scalp and into controllers under the chest. The current can then be adjusted by a remote.
According to Dr. Mark Richardson, director of epilepsy and movement disorder surgery at UPMC, the procedure will be restricted to adults who haven’t responded to psychotherapy or medication.
"There are a lot of people with OCD, but when you whittle it down to the people who would qualify, it's a smaller number," Dr. Richardson said.
Richardson estimated that he might only perform one to five surgeries a year. In a national trial performed over the past six years, only 20 people underwent the surgery. About half of the patients had significant relief of OCD symptoms.
"To have even one or two people be able to return to a life they have been locked out of is a significant outcome," said Dr. Richardson.
Though DBS has proven to improve conditions for those with severe OCD, researchers are still unsure why certain deeper parts of the brain (in the case of OCD, the ventral capsule and ventral striatum) can re-tune brain circuits to work more normally.
Source: Insurance News Net