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  1. #1
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    Deep Brain Stimulation for OCD

    Experimental brain surgery helping those with mental disorder.
    Monica Robins
    5/14/2007

    Jennifer Shortridge never thought she'd escape the prison of her mind.

    "I didn't have a life." Jennifer says.
    Her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD was so severe she couldn't survive without stringent rituals.

    "I had to just make sure everything was arranged and I never knew why. I never knew what was wrong with me. I just knew that that's what I had to do that just made me feel right." Jennifer said.

    She had many OCD habits, both mental and physical. They included always repeating a set of numbers during any task.

    • Tying her shoes over and over until they "felt" right.
    • Washing her hands in a ritualistic fashion a hundred times a day.
    • Checking locks on doors and windows that included opening and closing them hundreds of times.
    • Repeatedly putting a seatbelt on and off until it felt right.
    • Tapping her fingers
    • Writing the same word over and over.

    And many others. "It was like it was never ending it would never stop." It was also exhausting.

    Jennifer's OCD began around age 5 and continued for 22 years. Anxiety and stress would trigger the behavior. At one point, Jennifer was committed to a mental hospital that specialized in treating OCD patients. But the treatments and medication didn't work for her.

    Then Jennifer learned of an experimental brain surgery that used Deep Brain Stimulation or DBS to treat OCD.

    "I was at the point where I had nowhere else to go. I had nowhere else to turn. I was losing everything. I was ready to dig my own grave." Jennifer said.

    This past January Jennifer went to Shands Hospital in Florida. The Unversity of Florida McKnight Brain Institute is one of few hospitals that was part of the DBS for OCD experiment.

    Doctors implanted electrodes into the section of Jennifer's brain that caused her OCD. The electrodes are connected to two battery packs now located on either side of her chest.

    Deep Brain Stimulation is like a pacemaker for the brain. Electrical impulses modify brain activity.

    The result was instant and amazing.

    "I feel like I'm almost a new person. I feel like I grew up overnight."

    DBS did not cure her OCD. But it helps Jennifer control her behavior. She can now stop herself from compulsive activity, like handwashing and shoe tying. When she gets in the car, she uses the radio as a distraction, clicks her seatbelt and goes. At first Jennifer didn't notice her behavior was changing.

    "I didn't even realize I'd stopped doing the rituals."

    Jennifer travels to Florida once a month for research examinations. She's part of a two and a half year trial in which the Cleveland Clinic is also participating. The Clinic is one of the pioneering centers for DBS and is also seeing if it can be useful in treating severe cases of depression.

    The FDA is considering approving DBS for OCD as a humanitarian device for people in extreme cases who have failed all other medical treatment.

    For people like Jennifer it may be the only bridge to breaking free.

    "I would say this surgery saved my life."

    DBS is already used to treat Parkinson's disease, dystonia and epilepsy. Cleveland Clinic physicians reported last year that their experimental OCD patients were having promising outcomes. But it's unknown how long the treatment may last.

    If you'd like more information contact the Cleveland Clinic Center for Neurological Restoration at 216.445.3550.

  2. #2
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    Post Re: Deep Brain Stimulation for OCD

    Deep Brain Stimulation is a form of therapy still in its developmental stages and is not without risks.

    Based on the state of the art of DBS today, it would probably be considered as a last resort for someone who has not responded to any of the traditional therapies and in a patient where the potential benefits of DBS would justify the very real risks.

    DBS is already used to treat Parkinson's disease, dystonia and epilepsy. Cleveland Clinic physicians reported last year that their experimental OCD patients were having promising outcomes. But it's unknown how long the treatment may last.
    Added to that list of disorders would be Tourette Syndrome, but does not have the endorsement of either the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada not the Tourette Syndrome Association (U.S.) at this time (May 2007)

    The statement in bold would likely be a factor in considering DBS.

  3. #3
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    Re: Deep Brain Stimulation for OCD

    Thanks for pointing out the Tourette organizations views on DBS for Tourette Syndrome.

    Brain surgery is always the last resort. I have a friend who has a daughter with severe epilepsy and brain surgery became the only option.

    Thank goodness brain surgery can be another option for those who's lives are controlled by there disorder.

    I personally see surgery as the last resort for any illness I have. The risks and benefits need to be weighted carefully and researched very well.

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