This month, University of Minnesota Health became the first health system in the United States to implant a newly approved medical device that could further help people living with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders, such as essential tremor and dystonia.
In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved the new deep brain stimulation (DBS) device from Boston Scientific, the third such device available in the United States. DBS delivers targeted electrical stimulation to specific regions of the brain to treat symptoms associated with movement disorders.
Boston Scientific’s Vercise DBS system will give neurologists more control over previous models when treating patients, said Neurologist Jerrold Vitek, MD, PhD, who leads the University of Minnesota’s Udall Center of Excellence for Parkinson’s Disease. Vitek also served as the lead national researcher for a clinical trial testing the device.
“I believe this device has unique capabilities that will help us optimize the benefits of treatment while reducing the incidence of side effects,” Vitek said.
DBS has been used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders for decades. To administer the therapy, neurosurgeons implant a thin wire—called a lead—into targeted areas of a patient’s brain. Electrical stimulation is delivered via the lead, which helps control the abnormal activity in the brain that leads to tremors, stiffness and slowness of movement associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Each lead on the Vercise device has eight individual contact points for precise delivery of electrical stimulation. Those contact points are connected to separate current sources, which means neurologists will be able to individually control each contact on the lead, increasing the electrical current to some while reducing the power in others. They can even turn some off completely. These features will allow greater precision and flexibility in treatment.
Neurologist Lauren Schrock, MD, who helped manage the clinical trial for the device through University of Minnesota Health, hopes the new capabilities of this device will give neurologists greater control over therapy and help them reduce side effects associated with DBS. With more independent control, neurologists can stimulate different areas of the brain simultaneously, which she said isn’t feasible with the current devices on the market.
“I’m very excited about the potential for this device,” Schrock said. “It’s very easy to use, it’s very straightforward and we’ve seen patients do well with it.”
University of Minnesota Health Neurosurgeon Michael C. Park, MD, PhD, Schrock and Vitek performed the landmark implant of the Vercise device earlier this month.
“DBS has greatly improved quality of life for patients with movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, essential tremor and dystonia,” said Park, who specializes in DBS placement and is an assistant professor of neurosurgery in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Neurosurgery. “With technological advances occurring across the healthcare industry, it is good to see much-needed innovations in neuro-modulation therapy.”
Prior to Boston Scientific, only Medtronic and Abbott had FDA-approved DBS devices on the American market. Vitek said the introduction of Boston Scientific to the market will increase competition among medical device companies and hopefully improve the pace at which new technology is developed and made available to patients.
“The more companies we have in the marketplace, the better,” Vitek said. “If the technology continues to move forward, the better it is for patients.”
State support for the MnDRIVE program has helped make the University of Minnesota a leader in neuromodulation technologies. University of Minnesota researchers and University of Minnesota Health physicians who led clinical trials on this device are also supported by the MnDRIVE program.