A new medical device available through University of Minnesota Health could provide improved symptom relief for people living with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders such as essential tremor.
Called the Infinity Deep Brain Stimulation system, the implantable brain device delivers targeted electrical stimulation to specific regions of the brain in order to treat symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. University of Minnesota Health care teams are the first in the state to make this new technology available to patients.
“We believe that this next-generation device offers our physicians a technical advantage,” said Neurologist Jerrold Vitek, MD, PhD, who is also the chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “The ability to directionally steer stimulation will benefit our patients through better control of their symptoms.”
Deep brain stimulation has been used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders for decades. To administer the therapy, surgeons implant a thin wire—called a lead—deep into a patient’s brain to modify the abnormal activity in the brain that leads to tremors, stiffness and slowness of movement associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Traditionally, these wires have electrodes that wrap around their entire circumference, sending electrical stimulation in a 360-degree pattern. This remains a successful approach. However, that 360-degree electrical stimulation sometimes reaches parts of the brain that have not been targeted for the therapy, which can create temporary side effects.
The Infinity DBS system, manufactured by Abbott (formerly St. Jude Medical), is equipped with improved electrodes—called segments—which do not wrap around the entire lead. This gives neurologists the ability to direct the stimulation toward areas of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease while leaving the unaffected parts of the brain untouched. Many believe this targeted approach may reduce side effects and potentially improve treatment results.
The new system is one of the first major technical improvements for deep brain stimulation in more than a decade.
The University of Minnesota Medical School is a leader in brain research and the treatment of brain conditions. Its program received a major boost in 2013 when Minnesota lawmakers authorized funding for the MnDRIVE (Minnesota’s Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy) initiative.
MnDRIVE advances brain research by funding infrastructure development, the recruitment of top physicians and researchers and training for the next generation of clinicians and researchers.
Michael C. Park, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon and researcher, was recruited to University of Minnesota Health to perform deep brain stimulation procedures.
“Our team believes that the Infinity device creates new options for our patients and will translate to superior care,” Park said. “MnDRIVE created an opportunity for us to improve care for people with brain conditions in Minnesota.”
In late 2016, the University was named an Udall Center of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research, joining eight other centers around the country. The distinction secured more than $9 million in funding to improve Parkinson’s disease treatment, with a focus on deep brain stimulation research and care.
Through a longtime partnership with Abbott/St. Jude Medical, University of Minnesota Health physician researchers helped pave the way for this and other advancements in deep brain stimulation.
“Thanks to support from the state of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota has built a team of the country’s best brain researchers and physicians,” Vitek said. "Because of Minnesota’s large medical device industry we are able to pursue new public-private partnerships that will improve the lives of people with brain conditions while also creating new jobs.”