Watch: UAE performs its first deep-brain surgeries on 4 Parkinson’s patients
The process involves implanting a small device into precise areas of the brain, and its function is similar to that of a heart pacemaker.
Four Emiratis suffering from Parkinson’s will now be able to take their lives back from the disease as doctors in Abu Dhabi have performed the UAE’s first ‘deep brain stimulation operations’.
Parkinson’s disease — along with the symptoms that come with it, like tremors and stiffness — could devastate people’s lives, even during their prime.
This was particularly true for Mohammed Al Aryani, a 49-year-old who was diagnosed with the disease in 2000 at the age of 32. As his symptoms progressed, he shied away from social contact due to the severity of his symptoms and the shame he associated with them. “I left my job, stopped my studies, and even stopped leaving home for a long time. I wasn’t able to see my own children because I didn’t want them to see me like this.”
Doctors at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi have given him hope, with deep brain stimulation. During the surgery, electrodes were implanted into precise areas of the brain to block rogue signals that cause motor problems such as tremors.
Dr Tanmoy Maiti, the neurosurgeon who performed the operations, said: “Deep brain stimulation is a particularly complex endeavour that relied on detailed planning and submillimetre precision. Using some of the world’s most advanced imaging techniques, our team is able to determine the exact areas of the brain causing a patient’s symptoms. Once identified, the challenge is to place the electrode at those precise points through the brain. Each case is unique and dramatically different to most surgeries.”
Each surgery lasted between four and eight hours and took place over a period of four days.
Dr Florian Roser, chair of the Neurological Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, noted that deep brain stimulation is an intricate procedure that will transform both the lives of patients and the way Parkinson’s disease is treated in the UAE.
It can significantly reduce the symptoms patients experience, reducing their need for medication, and improving their quality of life. The electrodes are controlled by a small device implanted under the patient’s skin.
The surgical team received support from Dr Andre Machado, chair of the Neurological Institute at Cleveland Clinic, who flew to Abu Dhabi from the US for the surgeries.
The Emirati patients who underwent the procedure were younger than the average group with Parkinson’s disease, which is most common in people over the age of 60. However, a growing proportion of patients around the world are being diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease, interfering with their family, social and work lives.
“Parkinson’s disease can have a tremendous impact on a person both physically and mentally. As their symptoms progress, they can begin to feel isolated and alone, unwilling or unable to live their life as they did before. This is particularly true of early onset Parkinson’s that can affect people in the prime of their lives, depriving them of things many of us take for granted,” said Dr Shivam Om Mittal, a neurologist specialising in Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
Now, thanks to the surgery and the small device, Al Aryani is ready to conquer the hurdles he had encountered because of the condition. “I would like to continue my studies and get my bachelor’s degree, to be able to enhance and move ahead with my career. Most importantly, I cannot wait to be close to my children again and live a normal life,”
Rashed Alhebsi, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2015, was also excited at the prospect of getting his life back. “(Because of the disease) I could not move properly or go to work normally. My mental health deteriorated, and I could not socialise anymore. When my doctors told me about deep brain stimulation, I went online and did my research about the procedure, watched videos, and read a lot. I am proud of the UAE leadership and proud to be an Emirati. We have the best healthcare technology and skills. I look forward to becoming more active and socialising again,” Alhebsi said.
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