Deep Brain Stimulation helps Humble woman eliminate tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease

Here's what we know

In an operation called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), doctors place electrodes in the brain to eliminate tremors from diseases like Parkinson’s.

To make sure doctors place the electrodes in the right location and strengthen them correctly, the patient is awake for the procedure.

If the electrodes are turned on too weak, they wouldn’t work and if they’re too strong, they could cause stiffness.

Debra Quinones from Humble underwent DBS last year. For her, she said it was a medical miracle.

“It’s not a cure for Parkinson’s, but yes, you usually have to take some medicine... typically a lot less than you had to before,” said Dr. Allison Boyle, Memorial Hermann Northeast Neurologist.

Before the procedure, Quinones couldn’t do much on her own.

“Take a shower, drive, eat. I couldn’t even hold the fork,” Quinones explained.

It was dangerous to be alone because she said she would often lose her balance, and it was embarrassing because she needed help from her daughter to bathe.

Despite the poor quality of life, she still hesitated to get DBS because the idea of waking up during surgery was upsetting to her.

“It is scary to think about brain surgery, you’re typically awake during it, which is also a scary thought to have, but most patients told me that they wish they’d had it sooner. It gives you a huge change in your quality of life,” Dr. Boyle said.

“I did it and it wasn’t that bad. He woke me up and he said, ‘Can you feel this? Can you move your arm?’” Quinones remembered the surgeon speaking to her throughout the procedure. “I did everything he told me and I went right back to sleep.”

Now, she’s got her life back. Eating, driving and living by herself is no problem because her tremors disappeared.

In the office, Dr. Boyle demonstrated with a switch on a tablet how the device can be turned off (tremors return) and turned back on (tremors subside).

“She turned it off and I was already shaking. I was like already? Turn it back on,” Quinones said.

Dr. Boyle said this procedure doesn’t work in all types of Parkinson’s patients but they have a pretty good idea when someone will be a successful candidate. Unlike so many things in medicine, Dr. Boyle said this is an immediate fix for those patients.

The device can last forever, but the battery, which is accessible through a battery pack implanted in the patient’s chest, will need to be recharged or replaced.

Quinones will have to return to replace her battery every one to five years.