Deep Brain Stimulation at The University of Kansas Health System Continues to Revolutionize Movement Disorder Treatment

One of the more important recent breakthroughs in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor has been deep brain stimulation surgery. During DBS, electrodes are implanted into the patient’s brain. These electrodes either block or alter the signals that cause symptoms of certain movement disorders. Although DBS doesn’t cure movement disorders, it can provide significant relief from symptoms and allow patients to perform daily activities that they once weren’t able to perform. Neurosurgeons at The University of Kansas Health System performed one of the first deep brain stimulation surgeries in the country. Both the health system and the medical center were among the primary testing centers for DBS, helping the procedure gain FDA approval in 1997 for essential tremor and in 2002 for Parkinson’s symptoms.

Finding a new calm

Jack McDonald underwent DBS surgery at The University of Kansas Hospital to treat his Parkinson's Disease

Deep brain stimulation gives Parkinson's Disease patient, Jack McDonald, more good days. Read more.

Parkinson's Disease and Other Movement Disorders

Life-altering disorders with life-changing possibilities

Movement disorders are a group of nervous system conditions that result in abnormal or involuntary movements. There is no definitive cause for these disorders and no cures, although in some cases symptoms can be managed over a person’s lifetime.

Four of the more common movement disorders are:

Symptoms of movement disorders can include:

  • Abnormal or involuntary movements
  • Slow or reduced movements

The Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Center at the University of Kansas Health System includes internationally recognized experts in the diagnosis, treatment and research of such disorders.

Pioneering surgery for Parkinson's disease

As the only Parkinson's Disease Center of Excellence in the region certified by the National Parkinson's Foundation, and 1 of 26 in the country, The University of Kansas Health System continues to research and utilize the best treatment options for patients with movement disorders. The University of Kansas Health System and Medical Center were among the primary testing centers for using deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery to treat Parkinson's disease and essential tremor.

Learn more about DBS.

Our hospital also offers Duopa as a treatment as a treatment option for patients with advanced Parkinson's disease. The FDA recently approved Duopa, which is an infusion of levodopa via pump through the intestines. The University of Kansas Health System is one of the first sites in the country to perform the procedure since its approval.

Learn more about Duopa.

Tools to determine the problem

Although there is no specific test to diagnose Parkinson’s and other movement disorders, the following tools will be used to confirm the presence of such disorders:

  • Neurological examination
  • Physical examination
  • Observation of symptoms
  • Imaging

Clinical care

Medications are the primary treatment for patients with Parkinson's disease. Currently, there are no medications available that can slow or reverse Parkinson's progression. But we can treat the symptoms, such as tremor, stiff muscles and problems with balance or walking. With proper medication, patients can function as normally as possible. The most common medications include:
  • Levodopa
    Brain enzymes convert levodopa to dopamine. Loss of dopamine causes Parkinson's symptoms.
  • MAO-B inhibitors
    Monoamine oxidase inhibitors prolong the effects of dopamine in the brain by preventing its breakdown.
  • Dopamine agonists
    Dopamine agonists act like dopamine but, unlike levodopa, are not converted to dopamine.
  • COMT inhibitors
    Catechol O-methyltransferase inhibitors allow a larger amount of levodopa to reach the brain, raising dopamine levels.

As Parkinson's progresses, patients may experience fluctuations in symptom control and develop involuntary movements called dyskinesia.

Eventually, fluctuations between controlled symptoms (on time) and uncontrolled symptoms (off time) may become extreme and unpredictable. When medication adjustments no longer reliably control the symptoms, deep brain stimulation surgery may be an option.

What can be done

While there is no cure for movement disorders, the symptoms and pain of such disorders can be managed over a lifetime and progression of the diseases can possibly be slowed by the following techniques:

  • Physical exercise
  • Cognitive exercise
  • Medication
  • Surgery

With the nation’s most respected neurosurgeons and neurologists on staff, The University of Kansas Health System specializes in deep brain stimulation surgery as a treatment for movement disorders.