Brain surgery explained for Parkinson’s Disease; taken from Michael J Fox; Lucky Man; a memoir

What makes brain surgery so demanding?
– there is a zero margin for error.

The goal of the operation is to disable the brain cells responsible for the tremor. The target is deep in a part of the brain called the thalamus – an area about the size of a walnut that controls body movement. We’re looking for a particular structure within the thalamus which is responsible for the tremor – the VIM nucleus, a group of cells approximately two millimeters in diameter.

You’ll be brought into the OR and a metal frame, or halo, will be fastened to your head with small screws. During the procedure, the frame itself will be bolted to the operating table so you won’t be able to move your head around. Just as important, the frame helps us guide our instruments.

You’ll be sedated while this happens, with liquid Valium, so you won’t remember much, but you’ll be awake. In fact, we need you to be conscious throughout the whole surgery, to answer our questions; that’s an integral part of the operation helping us confirm that we’re where, in your brain, we want to be…….

They will probe with electrodes until they find the nerves that control the hand. Then ask a few questions from the patient. If it sounds about right, they zap the small part of the brain to kill cells. That will reduce tremors. Michael J Fox later said it worked and helped him for a few more years. But his Parkinson’s still got worse.


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