MRI Guided Parkinson’s Surgery


NEW YORK, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Michael J. Fox, Billy graham, and the late Muhammad Ali. All three celebrities raised public awareness of Parkinson’s disease, a progressive movement disorder for which there is no cure. Over the past few years, one new option has made surgery possible for a growing number of patients.

Five years ago Tony Spitzer was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

He told Ivanhoe, “It was a tremor. Pretty much the way Michael J. Fox also started. I think he had it in his pinky.”

His disease progressed, and medication couldn’t stop the tremors. Finally, Tony’s doctor agreed with him that deep brain stimulation, or DBS, would be his next step. With DBS, doctors insert wires to stimulate the portion of the brain impacted by Parkinson’s. The wires are connected to a battery pack, like a pacemaker. Traditionally, patients had to be awake during the surgery so doctors could ensure they were in the precise spot. For some, being awake was a deal-breaker.

Tony’s wife, Glenda Spitzer, said, “I mean I just think … scary as all hell!”

Now, neurosurgeons have another option. Using MRI guidance they can insert the electrodes in real time while the patient is under anesthesia.

Hooman Azmi, MD, Neurosurgeon at the New Jersey Brain and Spine Center says, “If there’s any changes in the brain structure, if there’s a little bit of shift in the brain during surgery these are things we actively see.”

Soon after Tony’s surgery, both he and his wife noticed the difference.

Glenda told Ivanhoe, “It is amazing. I could see him. Tony would be tremoring, and then stop.”

“It’s controllable. And it makes me feel 100 percent better,” Tony said.

Doctor Azmi says the MRI guided procedure is a good option for patients who are too anxious to be awake during the procedure, those who cannot have their medication withheld, and those who would have trouble communicating during surgery.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field Producer; Brogan Morris, Assistant Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; and Tony Dastoli, Editor.

REPORT #2337

(Source:  BACKGROUND: Parkinson’s disease is a slowly progressing neurodegenerative brain disorder. Many people live with this disease for years as their symptoms slowly progress. This happens when the brain is not producing enough dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that sends signals between an area of the brain, called the substantia nigra, and other parts of the brain. These signals control movements of the human body. There are neurons in the human brain that usually produce dopamine. These neurons concentrate in the substantia nigra. When 60 to 80 percent of the cells that produce dopamine are damaged and the brain is not producing enough dopamine the signs of Parkinson’s disease begin to appear. With this disease, the person loses the ability to control their movements, body and emotions. Although the disease itself is not fatal, complications from Parkinson’s are. Complications from this disease is rated the 14th top cause of death in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

TREATMENT: With a milder form of Parkinson’s, patients can be prescribed medications to control their symptoms. Possible medications include carbidopa-levodopa (the most effective), carbidopa-levodopa infusion, dopamine agonists, MAO-B inhibitors, catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors, anticholinergics, or amantadine. If the disease progresses, deep brain stimulation, or DBS, surgery may be the next step. DBS has three components: the lead (or electrode), the extension and the neurostimulator (or the “battery pack”). During DBS the surgeon will implant the electrodes into a specific part of the brain. Then a generator, or neurostimulator, is implanted in your chest near your collarbone and is connected to the electrodes. This generator sends electrical pulses to your brain and hopefully reduces the symptoms from Parkinson’s. The settings can be adjusted on the generator to suit your specific needs based on your progression. The surgery may provide life-changing relief from symptoms, but it does not stop the disease from progressing.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Traditionally, patients had to be awake during the DBS surgery, but now surgeons can use guidance from an MRI to insert the electrodes. In other words, the patient may be under anesthesia during the procedure. The MRI gives the surgeon an exact location to place the electrodes. Tony’s wife, Glenda Spitzer said, “As soon as the pulse generator (battery) was turned on we saw a difference.”


* For More Information, Contact:

Mara Quigley


Free weekly e-mail on Medical Breakthroughs from Ivanhoe. To sign up: