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How Advanced Deep Brain Stimulation Can Help Parkinson's Patients Better Manage Symptoms

 Klaire Purtee, a 62-year-old retired school teacher, was prompted to have the brain surgery because of her daughter's health.
Ann Thompson
Klaire Purtee, a 62-year-old retired school teacher, was prompted to have the brain surgery because of her daughter's health.

Retired teacher Klaire Partee has always been an active person. At 55, she entered a 5K obstacle race. She became alarmed while trying to climb a rope apparatus tied between two trees - it seemed as if her brain wasn’t telling her legs to move.

“I used to be so athletic,” she says. “So, it was really kind of odd. I thought 'Well, I’m either getting old or something else is going on.' ”

Three years later, she had a diagnosis: Parkinson’s disease. It’s a neurological disorder characterized by tremors and stiff movements.

The disease wasn’t the only thing at the top of her mind. She wondered who would take care of her daughter, who needs 24-hour care. At this point, she was having trouble holding a cup of coffee or a piece of paper.

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center neurologists suggested the latest deep brain stimulation device (DBS) from Medtronic called the SenSight Directional Lead System. She would be the first in Ohio to get it.

The device looks like a pacemaker inserted in a patient’s chest with leads that are surgically implanted in the brain.

“First, I thought, oh gosh, drilling a hole in my head and brain surgery really sound scary. But after about two years I decided to go ahead and get it," Purtee says. "And it wasn’t that bad at all. I went home the next day, so it was really a good thing in the end.”

What is the device and how has it advanced?
Neurosurgeon Brian Dalm says this Medronic DBS device now has the ability to steer the current in the leads and record brain activity. “We can use that sensing capability and recording capability with the directional leads to better optimize and treat the patients as far as making it more patient specific and tailored to their own brain.”

For Purtee, her tremors have stopped. Her hands are stronger, and her balance is better. That doesn’t surprise Dr. Dalm. “I just saw a patient that we implanted for a different indication, not Parkinson’s. And he had gone through the same process. He was kind of holding off. When I asked him about the surgery he said it was lightyears better than what he thought.”

Neurologists are wondering who else can benefit from SenSight. Dalm says the device is approved for Parkinson’s patients. But it may also benefit people with essential tremor, dystonia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Other applications would be through clinical trials.

Copyright 2021 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit 91.7 WVXU.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.