Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 October 2020

Parkinson's patients in UAE 'given lives back' by brain manipulation treatment

Deep-brain stimulation works by implanting electrodes that deliver impulses to give sufferers relief from their symptoms

A MRI shows the electrodes in a patient's brain, as well as the pacemaker-type device in their chest that controls the electrodes. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi 
A MRI shows the electrodes in a patient's brain, as well as the pacemaker-type device in their chest that controls the electrodes. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi 

The lives of Parkinson’s disease patients in the UAE are being transformed by a treatment that manipulates a part of the brain involved in motor function.

Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that is estimated to affect about 10 million people around the world.

Sufferers typically experience a tremor, have rigid limbs or balance and speech problems.

Deep brain stimulation works by implanting electrodes into a patient's brain that deliver impulses to relieve their symptoms. The electrodes are controlled by a pacemaker-type device in a patient's chest.

I’m back at work and really feel like I have my life back

James, Parkinson's disease patient

James, an American living in the Emirates, suffers from early onset Parkinson’s.

He began receiving treatment at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi after the effectiveness of his medication started to wear off.

He had the condition diagnosed at the age of 42, significantly earlier than the global average of 56, he did not present with tremors, which are often an early sign of the condition.

Instead, he was stiff, slow and found it difficult to walk.

“I would begin to seize up and find myself unable to move while I waited for my medication to take effect," he said.

He was put on medication to manage the condition, but over time he had to take more of it each day to achieve the same effect.

“I remember it got to the point where I stopped eating so that food in my stomach wouldn’t interfere with the absorption. I was in a really tough situation and knew I needed to do something urgently,” he said.

He began seeing Dr Shivam Om Mittal, consultant neurologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, last year at a time when the doctor began evaluating patients for deep brain stimulation, which was not offered by the hospital at the time.

“Previously, the facility was not available, so they had to travel abroad to get it done,” he said.

Patients first must undergo surgery during which the electrodes are implanted. They redirect faulty signals in the brain.

After it is completed they must visit doctors regularly to program the device to deal with fluctuating symptoms.

“To make the device work you need to program, get the right signals in the brain, otherwise just the surgery doesn’t do any good,” said Dr Mittal.

Dr Shivam Om Mittal, consultant neurologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, is offering support to patients with Parkinson's disease. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi
Dr Shivam Om Mittal, consultant neurologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, is offering support to patients with Parkinson's disease. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

In the early days following the surgery, the programming visits are weekly, but they are then worked up to months.

The Covid-19 pandemic meant patients were not able to travel abroad for the programming visits, worsening their disease.

“When we did the programming some patients had tears coming from their eyes. They feel like the tremors are under control and their walking is under control,” said Dr Mittal.

“It’s giving their lives back to them. It’s really gratifying.”

James, who underwent the surgery overseas, said the treatment transformed his life.

“I’m able to move a lot better, I go for walks now and I am eating normally. I’m back at work and really feel like I have my life back,” he said.

The next step for the hospital is to offer the surgery. Dr Mittal said that should happen soon.

“We have around six to seven patients and they are eager to get the surgery done at Cleveland Clinic," he said.

“So we are hoping we will be able to get the surgery done for these patients in the next month.”

Updated: September 21, 2020 09:06 PM

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