Kathy Sanford first person in the U.S. to have pacemaker implanted in the brain
It may sound like science fiction but then again heart pacemakers allow millions of people to live a full life and works just about the same way as a pacemaker implanted in the heart.
Sanford who says she has volunteered for this study wants to help others avoid the angst she has suffered as Alzheimer’s slowly disrupted her life. Sanford had early stage Alzheimer’s that was slowly becoming worse. She lived by herself, needed reminders to remember things, could not work and worse of all the medications just were not helping this dreaded disease.
As for the reason she went ahead and decided on this surgery Sanford said “The reason I’m doing it is, it’s really hard to not be able, sometimes, to remember,” as reported by Lauran NeerGarrd, AP.
Sanford had the five hour surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center which has been ranked one of “America’s Best Hospitals” for twenty years in U.S. News & World Report.
Up to ten patients will be enrolled in an FDA approved study Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center to determine if using a brain pacemaker can improve cognitive and behavioral functioning in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The study employs the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS), the same technology used to successfully treat about 100,000 patients worldwide with movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. The FDA approved DBS as a treatment for essential tremor (progressive neurological disorder) in 1997, for Parkinson’s disease in 2002 and Dystonia (neurological movement disorder) in 2003. DBS is also routinely used to treat chronic pain and has been used to treat various affective disorders, including major depression.
In this FDA approved study, the researchers hope to determine whether DBS surgery can improve function governed by the frontal lobe and neural networks involved in cognition and behavior by stimulating certain areas of the brain with a pacemaker.
Conducting this study is Dr. Douglas Scharre, MD, Nationally Recognized Researcher and Director of Neurobehavior and Memory Disorders at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Dr. Ali Rezai, MD, world-renowned neurosurgeon, Director of the neuroscience program at Ohio State, President of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), and the North American Neuromodulation Society (NANS).
The deep brain stimulation implant is similar to a cardiac pacemaker device with the exception that the pacemaker wires are implanted in the brain rather than the heart.
Dr. Rezai explains ““Basically, the pacemakers send tiny signals into the brain that regulate the abnormal activity of the brain and normalize it more.” “Right now, from what we’re seeing in our first patient, I think the results are encouraging, but this is research. We need to do more research and understand what’s going on.”
The study, which will enroll people with mild or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, will help determine if DBS has the potential to improve cognitive, behavioral and functional deficits.
Concerning Sanford Dr. Rezai says she continues to be evaluated to determine the effectiveness of the technology.
Joe Jester father of Sanford said of the study This study seemed to just give us hope.” “I guess we were at the place where you just don’t do anything and watch the condition deteriorate over the years, or try to do something that would give us hope and might stop the progression of this disease.”
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of degenerative dementia, afflicting about 5.5 million Americans and costing more than $100 billion per year, ranking it the third costliest disease in terms of health care expenditures in the United States.
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear after age 60, according to the National Institute on Aging.
The Ohio State neurology team is nationally renowned for expertise in dementia and Alzheimer’s care and research. In addition, the neuromodulation team at Ohio State is pioneers in the use of DBS to treat Parkinson’s disease, as well as exploring the use of DBS for other neurological and neurobehavioral conditions.
The Alzheimer’s study is scheduled to be completed in 2015.
The Memory Disorders Clinic at the Ohio State University Medical Center welcomes physician inquiries, consultations and referrals.
For general information or to schedule an appointment, please call 614-293-8531.
Please note Patients must be referred to the clinic by their primary care provider or specialty care provider. Find an OSU Primary Care Network doctor close to you.