Deep Brain Stimulation Could Provide Relief From Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s disease can be highly debilitating for those who suffer from it, for both its effect on motor function, and also the pain that it causes. Now, a small Korean study has found that deep brain stimulation might be able to provide some long-term pain relief.
Deep brain stimulation refers to a procedure in which a battery pack called a neurostimulator is surgically implanted into the brain. The neurostimulator then sends out tiny electrical pulses, blocking signals which cause the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as tremors.
This new study is unusual for focussing on the pain associated with Parkinson’s, rather than the problems it causes for movement.
Conducted at Seoul National University Hospital and published in JAMA Neurology, this new research describes the results of measuring the pain of 24 Parkinson’s patients before deep brain stimulation surgery, and again eight years later.
The researchers found that 16 of the patients experienced pain before surgery, with an average reported pain score of 6.2 out of 10. Eight years later, that pain had improved or disappeared.
However, 18 patients developed new pain during the follow-up period, though they gave this pain a lower average score of 4.4 out of 10.
The researchers described their findings: “We found that pain in [Parkinson’s disease] is improved by deep brain stimulation, and the beneficial effect persists after a long-term follow-up of eight years.”
“In addition, new pain developed in most of the patients during the eight-year follow-up period. We also found that deep brain stimulation is decidedly less effective for musculoskeletal pain and [that pain] tends to increase over time. Therefore, musculoskeletal pain needs to be addressed independently.”
This is only a small study, and the results remain inconclusive, but it does seem that it could lead to a greater understanding of effective treatment for the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. An accompanying editorial to this research called for larger trials with a longer follow-up period to further investigate these results.
Dr Michael Okun, national medical director for the National Parkinson Foundation commented: “It is potentially important that some pain types improved, but also important to understand why other types of pain did not benefit from stimulation.”