No longer awake during Parkinson’s surgery: ‘Now more women are daring to do it’

“It’s about deep brain stimulation where two electrodes are implanted into the deep brain structure. Previously, this procedure was always performed while the patient was awake,” says Vinke.

The process lasted almost the entire working day

During the procedure, electrodes are placed into the brain through two holes drilled in the skull. They are connected to the box via cables under the skin behind the ears. This chest is also under the skin, below the collar bone. From this box, electric currents are sent to the brain, which reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

People have always had to stay awake, Vinke says, because they have to run all kinds of tests during the procedure. “Then the surgeon can immediately check for a decrease in symptoms when the electrodes are placed.”

There are drawbacks to this classic method. The operation takes about a full working day, most of which the patient is awake with his head still. In addition, the patient has to temporarily stop taking the medication, which makes the complaint worse.

MRI scans

“Nowadays this is no longer necessary,” says Vinke, “we have now developed MRI scans. As a result, the operation can now be performed under anesthesia.”

And, according to Finke, it also saves time: “The procedure is much shorter. We can now operate on two patients in one day instead of one. In addition, patients continue to take their medication, so that complaints remain stable.”

“Since 2019, Radboudumc has only performed these operations for Parkinson’s disease with the help of MRI and under anesthesia,” says Vinke. Worldwide, the procedure is still performed according to the traditional vigilant method in the vast majority of situations.

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Remarkably, more women are signing up

“Since we started working under anesthesia, the number of women reporting this procedure has risen sharply,” Vinke says. Parkinson’s disease occurs in forty percent of cases in women. But in our study, only 17 percent of the patients in the traditional surgical approach were female.”

According to Finke, that percentage has now risen to more than forty percent, as the disease spreads through the population.

Vinke doesn’t know why more women are reporting now: “There will be more research into this. We think that men with Parkinson’s disease are not afraid to take risks. They don’t mind. Women look more at what they see in the metrics. If they look at such a process But again, this is something we have to figure out.”

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