Holding Steady: Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) helped Wayne Lewis regain his quality of life

Wayne Lewis can do things he hasn’t been able to do for more than a decade. After receiving deep brain stimulation (DBS) at the Inova Movement Disorders Program, the 72-year-old retiree, who lives in upstate New York, is back to enjoying activities with his family and friends without the cumbersome symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

“Before the procedure, I was slower mentally and I would get tired easily,” recalls Wayne. “The tremors in my right hand made it difficult to read my writing, and I had to have soup in a cup so I could drink it.”

Now with his symptoms under control, he’s back to boating with family and friends on the lake by his house, and he can actively play with his grandchildren and mow the lawn with ease. “I have much more freedom of movement,” he says. “Friends and people who haven’t seen me for years say I’m my old self.”

Options when medication become less effective

When Wayne first visited the Inova Movement Disorders Center, he was taking standard medications for Parkinson’s symptoms, but over the years the drugs had become less effective. He and his wife, Ruthann, drove nine hours for an evaluation when a friend recommended the Inova Movement Disorders Program, which helps people with Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and dystonia regain their quality of life.

“When Wayne came in to see us he was taking three medications. He was starting to feel how the medicines fluctuate, and he wasn’t happy with how they were working. With DBS, we were able to eliminate two medicines and lower the third by 60 percent,” says Drew Falconer, MD, a neurologist and Co-Director of the Inova Movement Disorders Program.

Latest model of deep brain stimulation technology used

The program is on the forefront of DBS technology, drawing people from all over the country for treatment. Wayne is the first person in Northern Virginia to be implanted with the latest model of DBS. “This newer system allows us more control,” says neurologist Sean Rogers, MD, PhD, a neurologist and Co-Director of the Inova Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Program. “It allows us to specifically target certain areas of the brain to get a better benefit.”

From the moment Wayne had surgery and the system was activated, his symptoms began to subside.

“Mr. Lewis already has controlled the symptoms better,” says Mahesh Shenai, MD, MBA, a neurosurgeon and Director of Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus. “Once the device was turned on, you could see the results fairly rapidly and dramatically.”

Learn more about Wayne Lewis’ experience with deep brain stimulation at inova.org/waynesstory.

Deep brain stimulation now a first-line treatment

For 20 years, deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. The procedure involves implanting a tiny pacemaker-like device that delivers electrical stimulation to specific areas in the brain to block abnormal impulses.

Whereas DBS used to be a last-resort therapy for patients with advanced Parkinson’s, last year the FDA approved the device for patients just four years after symptom onset who are not achieving desired results from their medication.

“You can get such good benefits with DBS while cutting back on medications that it shouldn’t be a last resort,” says Sean Rogers, MD. “There are so many things you can do if your Parkinson’s is well-controlled.”

1 Comment

  1. Robert on May 27, 2020 at 12:13 am

    Several years ago I considered DBS as a possibility in resolving a lifetime of ET that was increasing in intensity as I grew older. After a series of tests the possibility of PD was introduced. However carbidopa/levodopa did not resolve the tremor. Additional assessments identified another, more serious, potential diagnosis of MSA-C but the check list was not very extensive so for now we are considering a diagnosis of parkinsonism. Brain MRIs over time (in conjunction with a meningioma resection) showed cerebellar problems that could lead to MSA. For now tremor, some minor cognitive difficulty, correctible double vision, persistent but not severe balance issues, and ED are my main issues. Aricept and Exelon patches caused serious side effects and were discontinued.
    I have stopped pursuing DBS as a solution to tremor since the brain location stimulated is different from the cerebellar induced tremor. I would be happy with the status quo but unpredictability reigns supreme in the world of the brain. My comments are based only on my perceptions and I have utmost confidence in my medical team at Georgetown.

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