Cleveland Clinic's deep brain stimulation may help stroke patien - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Cleveland Clinic's deep brain stimulation may help stroke patients regain motor function

Brain Pacemaker (Source: Cleveland Clinic) Brain Pacemaker (Source: Cleveland Clinic)
(Source: Cleveland Clinic) (Source: Cleveland Clinic)

Nearly 800,000 people have a stroke every year in the U.S. It's the leading cause of long-term disabilities in our country. But a new Cleveland Clinic study, using deep brain stimulation, could potentially help patients regain motor function.

Until now, physical therapy was the only hope Judy had to regain use of her arm and her hand. One year ago a stroke robbed the 58-year-old of that ability.

"She has very little use of her hand, very little," explains Dr. Andre Machado.

But Judy is now the first patient to undergo deep brain stimulation surgery for stroke recovery. The Food and Drug Administration just approved this first human trial. Cleveland Clinic Neurosurgeon Dr. Andre Machado has studied the procedure for 10 years. He describes it like reorganizing the brain.

"The area that's dead or damaged is dead and damaged permanently but the area around it, is trying to take over the function of the area that is dead and damaged," Dr. Machado said.

Dr. Machado believes stimulating that area could increase activity and help regain motor function.

The device consists of a wire, connecting from the back of the brain, in the cerebellum, down the neck into the chest where it connects to a power source, that sends electrical signals to the brain.

"Our entire hope is that this is going to make a difference in the lives of a lot of people currently disabled by stroke," says Dr. Machado.  

Judy is still recovering from the six hour surgery to implant the DBS device, but in a few weeks, after more physical therapy, it will be turned on.

"We hope that over time, DBS with a combination of physical therapy will help her regain more and more use of the affected arm and affected hand," says Dr. Machado.

And also help Judy hold her grand kids once again, "That would be a great goal, if she would be able to hold the children."

This is just a trial. It will be several years before any conclusive results come out and before any procedure is approved.

The Clinic is currently recruiting patients for this study. They need five more right now. The criteria includes patients who've had a stroke in the last 12 to 24 months and suffered severe disability. If you are interested, you can call the research coordinator for this trial, Alexandria Wyant at 216-444-1179.

Dr. Machado says after a period of time, they will also shut the device off, to see if the benefits can be sustained. If that’s the case, doctors would be able to remove the device so the stroke patients wouldn’t have to live with it forever.

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