Rachel Fieldhouse


New “miracle” Parkinson’s treatment can be done “anywhere in the world”

New “miracle” Parkinson’s treatment can be done “anywhere in the world”

World-first technology has opened doors for new treatment of Parkinson’s disease, with the new wireless implants being dubbed a “miracle” by patients.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) implants reduce the symptoms of Parkinsons, and have required adjusting from a neurologist every time a patient’s condition changes - until now.

The new technology from neuromodulation company Abbott allows specialists to adjust DBS devices remotely over the internet.

For 70-year-old Clive Couperthwaite, the first patient to use the new tech as part of a clinical trial last year, the development has put an end to his two-hour commutes for 20-minute adjustments to his implant.

 “I’m not the patient that lives the furthest away, but it’s a complication to get in [to visit a specialist] … if you live in Longreach or some place out of the city - it’s a major demand, Mr Couperthwaite said.

“When you live so far away from your specialist, it’s anxiety-provoking because what if something goes wrong.

Clive Couperthwaite, the first person to use the new remote technology. Image: Abbott / YouTube

“You feel like you can live again - you don’t have to keep looking over your shoulder.”

The technology has been approved for use in Australia, Europe, and the United States.

Professor Peter Silburn, a neurologist from the Queensland Brain Institute, said the development of the new technology has been “the most exciting development” in treatment of the neurological disease since the DBS device itself.

The DBS device works as a pacemaker for the brain, sending electrical signals to areas responsible for movement to reduce symptoms.

“We take away the cardinal symptoms of Parkinson’s and we’re able to take the drugs right down - if not stop them all together,” Dr Silburn said.

Two electrodes are implanted in the brain and receive electrical signals from the device, implanted in the chest. Image: Abbott / YouTube

Without the new technology, Dr Silburn said the device may need to be adjusted as frequently as every two weeks.

Now, the wireless technology allows specialists such as Dr Silburn to connect with patients via an app installed on paired devices - meaning that adjustments can be made from anywhere in the world.

“This is going to have a major impact for particularly regional Australians,” Dr Silburn said.

“It reduces the burden of care, whether you’re remote in the bush or an hour away in the car - someone has to give up their time to bring you in.

“If you’re way out in the middle of Australia and something goes wrong, you need to have a Careflight, that could be completely eliminated.”

Mr Couperthwaite said the DBS implant is the source of his autonomy, allowing him to complete tasks from painting to kayaking.

“Before I was shaking through my hands, I couldn’t write my name legibly,” he said.

Migual Diaz, the chief executive of Parkinson’s Australia, said the new development could lead more people to pursue DBS as a form of treatment, especially if they are geographically isolated.

“People [who] may have been put off by the fact that you have to come to Brisbane to have [adjustments] and have opted not to have DBS surgery might now reconsider that,” he said.

“Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s, so anything that will improve their wellbeing is an absolute benefit and we’ve got to pursue it.”

The technology has been made available to select hospitals, with the expectation it will be available nation-wide by 2022.

Image: Abbott / YouTube

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