FORT MYERS, Fla. - Deep Brain Stimulation or DBS therapy for Parkinson's patients is being done right here in Southwest Florida. Lee Memorial is just one of six places in the state using DBS to help control tremors and it's giving some people a chance to live their lives to the fullest.
In every nook and in every cranny of his North Fort Myers home, you'll find an original Ron Seiler stained glass piece of art. But what might not be able to see is that Ron also needs more than just a creative eye to make his masterpieces. He also needs a steady hand.
Ron's diagnosis of Parkinson's disease might have shelved his hobby forever if he hadn't undergone brain surgery as part of Deep Brain Stimulation or DBS therapy.
Doctor Amanda Avila, with Florida Neurology Group in Fort Myers is Ron's neurologist. She showed us how small electrical currents sent to Ron's brain can steady his tremors.
For the past ten years, Parkinson's patients have been able to take advantage of DBS as one of the FDA approved treatments for the disease. Here's how it works.
A neurosurgeon places the device inside the brain and it's connected through a wire that's tunneled under the skin to a battery pack. The device then creates a small electrical field helping to control Ron's shaking.
Then a neurologist, like Dr. Avila, works with the patient adjusting the device.
"At one point it was adjusted too high and I would fall down," recalled Ron.
"Deep Brain Stimulation is really an ongoing therapy. So the surgery is the beginning of the therapy. The programming happens in the course of the next four to six months-- is really the therapy and that's when we can tailor the device to treat the symptoms that are most bothersome to the patient," explained Dr. Avila.
But most importantly, not everyone with Parkinson's is a candidate for this type of treatment.
"It's a lot of work to do DBS and it's very complicated. It's brain surgery.... the surgery can be a success or failure based on millimeters," Dr. Avila said.
And she tells us it's not necessarily a replacement for drugs. But for Ron, right now the DBS treatment means he doesn't have to rely on any medications.
"Ron's one of our lucky patients," said Dr. Avila. "We're just treating him with this device. It's his only treatment."
With the device comes the freedom to do everything he's always enjoyed, even the little things.
Dr. Avila tells us that DBS does not change the course of the disease. She also says this treatment is not for people in the beginning or late stages of Parkinson's but really for people in the middle stages who have to take a lot of medication or take them very frequently. Also, because it's brain surgery any candidate has to go through a number of meetings with various doctors to make sure that this elective surgery will truly be a benefit.