Deep brain stimulation and children

Have you heard about the doctor who after having a liver transplant decided to take the next step and implant electrodes into his brain to curb his addiction to alcohol? This is called deep brain stimulation (DBS).

Although Mr. Plummer, an infectious disease specialist participated in an experimental treatment to treat his addiction to alcohol; prestigious children’s hospitals around the globe have been using deep brain stimulation for a number of ailments in children. Parents have been relieved to learn of the following developments:

In 2016, the Children’s National Health System, Deep Brain Stimulation Program within Children’s Division of Neurosurgery and Boston University Hospital, used deep brain stimulation to:

  • treat a 6 year old child with a severe body movement disorder. Less than two months after surgery, the child had the ability to finally sit up right and control his limbs.
  • treat a 2 year old child for his violent and uncontrollable tics of body movement tics and jerks. He eventually became known as the Bionic Man.

According to experts, DBS therapy implants a neurostimular (the size of a pacemaker) under the patient’s skin near the collarbone so that it can transmit electrical pulses to the basal ganglia which controls the body’s motor circuit. This is the organ responsible for involuntary movements. The neurostimular is connected to electrodes by thin wire.

As indicated above, DBS has been requested by parents and traditionally used as an experimental treatment for irregular body movements in children, or Dystonia. This represents almost 60% of pediatric patients according to a 2019 study. Other therapeutic uses of DBS in children under the age of 21 follows.

  • Cerebral palsy (12.2%)
  • Tremor (7.7%)
  • Tics/Tourette’s syndrome (4.4%)
  • Chorea (2%)
  • Parkinson’s disease (0.6%)
  • other Movement Disorders (14.2%).

What the future holds

There are studies to assess the viability of using DBS for the treatment of Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

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