No more waking up during Parkinson’s disease surgery: “More women now dare to do it”

“It is a deep brain stimulation in which two electrodes are implanted in the deep structure of the brain. Previously, this operation was always carried out when the patient was awake”, explains Vinke.

The operation lasted almost the entire working day

During the operation, electrodes are placed in the brain through two holes drilled in the skull. They are in contact with a casing via subcutaneous cables behind the ears. This box is also found under the skin, just below the collarbone. From this box, electrical currents are sent to the brain, which reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

People always had to stay awake because they had to perform all kinds of tests during the operation, Vinke explains. “Then the surgeon can check immediately if the symptoms decrease when the electrodes are placed.”

There are downsides to this classic method. The operation takes almost a full working day, most of the time the patient is awake with his head fixed. In addition, the patient has to temporarily stop taking medication, which exacerbates complaints.


“Today this is no longer necessary”, explains Vinke, “We now have specially developed MRIs. As a result, the operation can now be performed under anesthesia.”

According to Vinke, it also saves time: “The procedure is much shorter. We can now operate on two patients in one day instead of one. In addition, patients continue to take their medication, so complaints remain stable.”

“Since 2019, Radboudumc has only performed these operations for Parkinson’s disease using MRIs and under anesthesia,” says Vinke. Worldwide, the procedure is still performed using the traditional awake method in the vast majority of situations.

Surprisingly, more women are signing up

“Since we started operating under anesthesia, the number of women presenting for this operation has increased sharply,” says Vinke, “Parkinson’s disease occurs in forty percent of cases in women. But in our study, only seventeen percent of patients in the conventional female surgical method”

According to Vinke, this percentage has now increased to more than forty percent, because the disease is therefore evenly distributed in the population.

Vinke doesn’t know why more women are now reporting: “More research would be done on this. We believe that men with Parkinson’s are not afraid to take risks. They don’t mind. Women look more at what they see on the scale. . if they are considering such an operation. But again, it’s something we have to understand.”

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