Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery for Parkinson’s Disease Progresses in Ireland, but Faces Challenges

Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery for Parkinson’s Disease Progresses in Ireland, but Faces Challenges

Patients with Parkinson’s disease often experience a decline in the effectiveness of their medication, particularly levodopa, causing their symptoms to worsen over time. This rollercoaster effect, where symptoms subside after taking the drug but return once it wears off, can be distressing for patients.

To address advanced motor symptoms, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery is often considered. This procedure involves implanting an electrode in the brain to deliver controlled electrical stimulation to the areas that control movement, providing long-lasting relief from debilitating symptoms.

In Ireland, the Deep Brain Stimulation National Service was opened in Dublin’s Beaumont and Mater hospitals in November 2021, allowing patients to receive the surgery domestically instead of traveling abroad, mainly to the UK. The surgery itself is performed in Beaumont, while the Mater hospital handles pre-operative and post-operative care. However, there is currently a two-year waiting list for the treatment due to high demand.

According to Consultant Neurologist Prof Richard Walsh, access to surgery is a major factor contributing to delays in the service. The limited availability of theater time in Beaumont Hospital is causing a bottleneck. To meet the demand in Ireland, more resources, including facilities and staff, are required.

Prof Walsh believes that the Mater hospital needs to increase the number of doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals to keep up with demand. Despite the challenges, the national DBS service in Ireland has already performed 20 surgeries, with an estimated total of 60 surgeries by the end of this year. However, to meet the demand, the service would need to perform between 50 and 60 surgeries annually.

Establishing the national DBS service in Ireland has been a lengthy process. Initial assessments in 2012 indicated that it would be more cost-effective to send patients abroad for treatment. However, the burdensome travel costs and logistical difficulties faced by patients led to the establishment of a domestic service. Having a local service not only saves money but also reduces paperwork and stress for patients.

DBS surgery also shows potential in treating other conditions, indicating its bright future as an alternative therapy in the coming years.

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