From Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health: Hundreds of thousands of Americans live with neurological movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. People who live with movement disorders must deal with symptoms like uncontrolled movements, problems with physical coordination and balance, muscle weakness, stiffness and others which can make basic daily functions like brushing teeth or buttoning a blouse frustrating or impossible.
Patients with Parkinson’s, like Jeanne Collins of Manchester, have found relief for their symptoms through deep brain stimulation (DBS), whereby electrodes are surgically inserted into a targeted area of the brain and an impulse generator battery (IPG), similar to a pacemaker, is implanted under the collarbone or in the abdomen to send electrical impulses to the electrodes to “stimulate” motor function. People who have DBS devices can adjust the devices using a manual controller, but must also see their neurologists every three-to-six months to recalibrate the IPG and electrodes.
Collins had the DBS device surgically placed in February 2021. Recently she became the first patient in New England to have her device calibrated remotely through telemedicine by Dartmouth-Hitchcock neurologist Anas Hannoun, MD. Hannoun used technology developed by Abbott Laboratories, which allows for remote programming of the DBS device via a laptop, tablet or smart device.
“If you had told me six months ago that I would have the capability to program a DBS device remotely, I’d have said, ‘No way,’ yet here we are,” said Hannoun. “After many years of meticulously adjusting and navigating through the right DBS stimulation for our patients, movement disorders neurologists are now seeing great changes in technology. Connecting to and adjusting the DBS device while our patient is at home is a huge breakthrough.”
In June, during a virtual follow-up, Collins was experiencing Parkinson’s symptoms. With the internet connection established, Hannoun was able to calibrate the battery and adjust what needed to be stimulated, activated and/or pulsed based Collins’ symptoms and real-time feedback during the procedure.
Collins, a hairdresser for 40 years, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s five years ago, but had experienced symptoms prior to her diagnosis. Her symptoms included tremors in her hands, muscle weakness and rigidity, and problems with balance. Hospitalized multiple times due to falls, her symptoms forced her to give up her hairdressing career and her home. But DBS has already improved her quality of life, allowing her to resume everyday things she once took for granted
“DBS has given me a reason to live,” said Collins. “I’m not 100 percent, but I’ll take it. I can put on eyeliner, cut up vegetables, and I can work part-time and be with people, which I love.”