Surgery breakthrough offers new hope for Parkinson's sufferers
In the past few years Fady Al-Sarouny’s Parkinson’s disease tremors had became so debilitating the Melbourne man was unable to perform simple of tasks, such as pour a glass of water or put himself to bed.
“It was very hard … I couldn’t even step outside. I felt like I was nothing,” Mr Al-Sarouny told 9News.
Now the 54-year-old’s incapacitating shaking has subsided – thanks to a new and improved form of brain surgery.
Royal Melbourne Hospital is pioneering a new surgical technique which is having remarkable results, and delivering health and hope for sufferers such as Mr Al-Sarouny.
For decades doctors worldwide have been conducting Deep Brain Stimulation - or DBS for short.
The therapy involves implanting electrodes into the areas of the brain which control movement.
These are connected to a device under the skin which triggers electrical impulses to minimise the shakes.
Royal Melbourne Hospital neurosurgeon Girish Nair likens the therapy to a “pacemaker for the brain”.
“For people that are debilitated with tremors and unable to maintain a social lifestyle or even take care of themselves, deep brain stimulation (DBS) makes a huge change,” Mr Nair told 9News.
For some however the procedure has been intolerable and unsuitable.
Traditionally patients were secured to an operating table with a cumbersome head frame for more than five hours.
The secure frame kept them still during scans and skull incisions.
Most patients were kept awake during the surgery to help surgeons correctly guide in the electrodes.
Being awake while a surgeon drills into the skull was frightening prospect for many patients so many did not proceed with the treatment.
Now neurosurgeon Girish Nair is leading a team at the Royal Melbourne that is using the new technique.
Replacing the bulky frame is a more petite 3D printed piece of equipment. Before surgery the frame is custom-made to fit the patient's head.
This means the patient can be moved, pre-operative scanning is much faster, and surgeons can target specific areas of the brain with sub-millimetre precision.
“The patient comes to theatre, the custom-made implant is attached to the skull, and we are off and racing,” Mr Nair said.
Importantly the patient is totally sedated during the brain surgery.
Mr Nair approached Mr Al-Sarouny to see if he would be willing to undergo the new surgical technique. He underwent DBS last week and the results have been near miraculous.
Mr Al-Sarouny tremors have virtually ceased for now and he is able to move without shaking – albeit slowly.
“I felt like power was returning to my brain,” he told 9News.
“It was like a dream come true.”
Deep brain stimulation is not a cure for Parkinson’s, but the positive physical improvements are predicted to last for up to a decade.
Mr Al-Sarouny is grateful for every second of “normal” movement.
“I want to work. That’s the first thing. I want to go back to my life.”
For the first time in a long time, the dad has a smile on his face and hope in his heart.
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