This story recounts the experience of one individual who is receiving Medtronic Deep Brain Stimulation Therapy to manage symptoms of essential tremor. Please bear in mind that the experiences are specific to this particular person.
Bryan was diagnosed with essential tremor in 1995 at the age of 40. An engineer at a nuclear test facility, Bryan assumed that since his coworkers didn't mention his tremor, they didn't notice it. But on difficult days, Bryan would need to rest after work for up to 2 hours. "The days felt wasted," he says.
By the time Bryan was diagnosed with essential tremor, many "normal" activities had become difficult for him. "I couldn't use a fork to eat peas," he says. "I had to use a spoon. When I used a key, I'd have to try several times. Then I'd have to sit down from the effort."
Bryan also played the piano and directed his church choir throughout the progression of his tremor. As his condition worsened, he comforted himself with the thought that he would simply adjust to his new limitations.
But it bothered Bryan that as his sons got older they began to notice that their father was different. "When we'd go to concerts and games for the kids," he says, "They would have to take pictures because I couldn't. They tried to keep me involved, but I didn't like that they always had to do things for me."
Bryan tried a number of medications to manage his tremor, but they carried side effects like weight gain and sluggishness that for him were worse than the tremors themselves. "I just decided to live with the tremor and gave up on hope of treatment," says Bryan.
Bryan had already heard of deep brain stimulation when his neurologist suggested the therapy. Bryan says, "I was ready for it." In April 2000 Bryan had surgery and began the therapy, which helped to still the tremors that had dominated his right side for 11 years.
DBS Therapy requires brain surgery. Risks of brain surgery may include serious complications such as coma, bleeding inside the brain, stroke, seizures and infection. Some of these may be fatal.
Once implanted, the system may become infected, parts may wear through your skin, and the lead or lead/extension connector may move. Medtronic DBS Therapy could stop suddenly because of mechanical or electrical problems. Any of these situations may require additional surgery or cause your symptoms to return or worsen.
Medtronic DBS Therapy may cause worsening of some motor symptoms associated with your movement disorder, and may cause speech and language impairments. Stimulation parameters may be adjusted to minimize side effects and attain maximum symptom control. In patients receiving Medtronic DBS Therapy, depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide have been reported.
Bryan did experience some tingling sensations in his hands before the programming was fine tuned. He was surprised, however, by the fact that he couldn't feel the surgery even though he was awake.
"They tell you that your brain doesn't have any nerve endings," he notes. 'Still, in the back of my mind I kept thinking it would still hurt. But I didn't feel anything. Not even pressure."
According to Bryan, the implanted parts of the DBS system are not a problem. He can feel the neurostimulator in his chest, and the wires under his scalp, "but they don't bother me. I wish I had started using stimulation 10 years ago. I had given up and thought I just had to live with my tremor. But I didn't have to."
A week after surgery, Bryan returned to his neurologist to have the stimulation turned on and adjusted. "I could see the difference immediately," he says. "The change was incredible. Within a day or two, I was amazed how easy it was to do things like write a check and sign my name."
These days, Bryan runs errands for his family, helps his children with their school projects. He's also more involved at church, where people tell him his piano playing is much better.
Bryan has also become more confident at work. "Before the surgery, I had been hiding out in my office without realizing it," he recalls. "Within a week of going back to work, I was out talking to people, which I hadn't done in a long time."
Medtronic invited this patient to share his story candidly. Not everyone who receives Medtronic DBS Therapy will receive the same results as the individual in this story; some people may experience significant symptom relief from DBS Therapy, and others may experience minimal symptom relief. Talk to your doctor to determine if Medtronic DBS Therapy is right for you.
Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.