Deep Brain Stimulation Helps Patients with Certain Types of Movement Disorders Lead Normal Lives

Youmay not realize it, but your muscles are always working – even when you’re not.When your muscles are in “resting tone,” there’s always a small degree ofcontraction. But sometimes, doctors say, abnormal brain circuits can cause toomuch “tone” in a particular muscle, muscle group or even the entire body,leading to abnormal contraction or twisting of one’s hand, arm or leg. It’s acondition known as “dystonia” – Greek for “dys” (bad or abnormal) and “tonia”(tone).

Justin Sporrer, M.D., neurosurgeon at Miami Neuroscience Institute

“Dystonia is a neurological disorder characterized byexcessive involuntary muscle contractions,” says Justin Sporrer, M.D., a neurosurgeon with Miami Neuroscience Institute, who specializes in generalneurosurgery, functional neurosurgery and deep brain stimulation for movementdisorders. “For some patients, thesecontractions can result in repetitive movements or abnormalpostures, which can make it difficult for them to control movement and thusimpact their quality of life in many ways.”

Dr.Sporrer says dystonia is not a common disease, and it canalso be a symptom of a larger problem, such as Parkinson’s Disease. “Only 16in 100,000 people are diagnosed with dystonia each year,” he says. “Some peopleexperience repetitive movement that can resemble a tremor but a far more commonsymptom is the contraction or twisting of the hand, arm or leg into an abnormalposture.”

Dystoniacan affect anyone at any age, according to Dr. Sporrer, and some people mayhave a genetic predisposition to the disease. “But,” he says, “more aggressivegenetic forms tend to surface in childhood.”

Treatment for dystonia can encompass acombination of modalities, including medication, physical therapy and deepbrain stimulation (DBS). The specialists at Miami NeuroscienceInstitute are pioneers of DBS treatment, a non-invasive procedure that useselectrical stimulation in the brain to help control abnormal body movements.

“DBSis a minimally invasive procedure that takes approximately four to six hours,and we’ve had great outcomes with this,” Dr. Sporrer says. “Following surgery,your symptoms should immediately improve, and you may even be able to reducethe number of medicines you take to control symptoms.”

Somepatients can also find relief with a simple touch or action that releases theabnormal contraction, he says. “It’s basically a sensory trick that works likea key inserted in a lock that releases the abnormal circuitry causing thecontraction.”

Ifyou or a loved one has symptoms consistent with dystonia, Dr. Sporrerrecommends seeking expert care with a movement disorder specialist. “There is alot of symptom overlap with dystonia and other movement disorders, so anaccurate diagnosis is essential,” he cautions. “At Miami NeuroscienceInstitute, we have some of the nation’s top movement disorder experts, and allof the different treatment options available under one roof.”

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