Electrode procedure does wonders for Parkinson's symptoms

HOUSTON – Sixty-eight-year-old Jeffrey Day was officially diagnosed with Parkinson’s about seven years ago.

He underwent an operation at Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute, where doctors place electrodes in the brain to fight “misfiring cells” that cause Parkinson’s symptoms, with a higher frequency. This basically stops tremors.

If that doesn't sound crazy enough -- the patient is awake for the whole thing!

“We can get real-time proof that we are getting a good outcome and we use a lot of things to help us -- we'll use radiographs, MRI to make sure we are at the right target area. We listen to the cells fire and we know what that bad signaling sounds like, and it kind of confirms the target area,” said Dr. Albert Fenoy, neurosurgeon with Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute and UTHealth.

During an operation that KPRC witnessed, surgeons “turned on” the electrodes and the patient’s tremors almost completely stopped.

Jeffrey Day remembers the relief he felt during his surgery.

“When they started playing with those electrodes they had in me, I felt wonderful. I could move if I chose to move but I wasn't moving involuntarily. It was great,” he said.

Day said the symptoms before surgery were so bad he voluntarily chose this operation on his brain. He says it has drastically improved his quality of life.

“I can't imagine living with it,” Day said. “It's exhausting, this disease is exhausting, because you're always trying to compensate for it and now I didn't have to compensate anymore.”

His attitude may be why his results are so good.

“Every patient benefits from this surgery. It's really in the expectation of the patient, because we're not curing the disease. We are improving the disease and improving the symptoms and improving the quality of life,” Dr. Fenoy said.

Fenoy makes it clear the surgery is not a cure, it’s an adjustment to symptoms brought on by Parkinson’s or other illnesses.