A recent long-term follow up study conducted by researchers at Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH) has shown that deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalmic nucleus (STN) is safe and effective for patients with severe Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative brain disease characterized by tremors, muscular rigidity, and slow, imprecise movements. DBS is a surgical method that stimulates the activity of nerve cells by placing fine electrodes in the thalamus of the brain and is known to be effective for various cranial nerve-related diseases but little is known about its long-term effect.
Most Parkinson's disease patients control symptoms with drugs, but prolonged drug treatment can lead to side effects. Consequently, DBS, which regulates abnormalities in neural circuits through electrical stimulation at the base of the brain, is an alternative.
Since 2005, DBS for STN has received domestic health insurance benefits and proven effective and safe in short- and medium-term treatment, but little is known about long-term prognosis and survival for severe Parkinson's disease, said the researchers.
The study, led by Professor Paek Sun-ha, analyzed the survival rate and pre- and post-operative status of patients of 81 patients including 37 men and 44 women with severe Parkinson's disease who underwent DBS at SNUH for 145 months between March 2005 and March 2008.
Accordingly, the cumulative survival rate after surgery was 98.8 percent, 95.1 percent and 79 percent at one, five and 10 years respectively, showing that the survival rate of Parkinson's patients who underwent surgery was generally maintained for at least five years.
During the 11-year follow-up, 43 percent of the study participants died while 57 percent survived. Non-survivors underwent DBS and lived for an average of 110.46 months while 40 percent were able to walk after more than 11 years.
The Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), which evaluates the severity of Parkinson's disease symptoms, improved significantly up to five years after surgery and further increased again after 10 years.
According to SNUH, higher survival rates and walking were maintained in patients whose electrodes entered the subthalamic nucleus on both sides during the initial surgery.
"The study tracked Parkinson's disease patients who underwent surgery after the introduction of bilateral DBS of the STN in Korea and confirmed safety and effectiveness through survival rates and long-term prognosis analysis for at least 10 years." said Professor Jeon.
Professor Paek added that this study provides reassurances to patients suffering from Parkinson's disease that they can maintain their quality of life even after more than 10 years.
The study was published in the latest issue of the SCI journal Neurosurgery.