Colorado doctor’s innovative surgery helps Parkinson’s patients

LITTLETON, Colo. -- A surgeon at Littleton Adventist Hospital has a unique way to treat Parkinson's disease symptoms.

Dr. David VanSickle is changing how deep brain stimulation is done so more patients will choose to get it.

“The best surgery that no one wants is useless,” he said.

When patients get the Abbott Infinity DBS system, a medical device similar to a pacemaker for the brain is implanted in the chest. It sends electrical impulses through electrodes to certain areas of the brain.

This can greatly improve movement, walking and tremors.  But in the past, the surgery was done while patients were awake and it took many hours.

“No one would go through the surgery because it was such an ordeal,” VanSickle said.

Now, VanSickle -- who has a background in bio-engineering -- is pioneering a new way to do the procedure that uses imaging and robotic placement of the electrodes.

It also allows the patients to receive anesthesia, making it a much more attractive option.

“I was asleep the whole time,” said patient Ray Richeson.

His symptoms have greatly improved and he doesn’t shuffle when he walks.  He can now control the strength of the electrical impulses through an app.

With this kind of success, VanSickle is now training surgeons from across the country to better help those with Parkinson's disease, which affects up to 1,000,000 Americans.

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