Electric probes helping patients

'Reporter: Laura Sparkes

A new high-tech treatment is restoring normality to the lives of people disabled by body tremors.

The treatment is called Deep Brain Stimulation. It has been used on Parkinsons disease sufferers and is now used for other movement disorders like Tourettes. After he was hit by a car while crossing the road at just eight years of age, 22-year-old Aaron Dowling has lived with a debilitating shake in his left arm.

Aaron said the tremor was very hard to deal with especially going through bullying in school. "Dealing with relationships, dealing with situations every day, because people don't understand what I'm going through in having a tremor with this disability," he said. His neurosurgeon, Dr Richard Bittar, said it was continuing to affect all aspects of his life.

"Nothing had worked, he'd tried all sorts of medication, nothing worked, we suggested to Aaron he could look at the surgery," he said.

"The brain essentially functions as a building which has a number of different circuits in it, we are looking at trying to interrupt or modulate the flow of activity through various areas of those circuits."It was a lifeline for Aaron.A wire electrode was inserted into the part of Aaron's brain doctors think cause his tremors and is connected to wires that run down the neck to a battery implanted in the chest."It allows us to deliver this ongoing electrical pulse, it's very small, you don't feel it in your head," Dr Bittar said."It gives us a very exact way of tuning the brain."

Nadine Jebrail was just 31 when she was struck down with Multiple Sclerosis.She was a professional dancer who was left in a wheelchair. Her husband Zaya and son Jake were devastated. "She was going downhill that quick the last thing we would ever think about was a nursing home, but it was heading that way," Zava said. Then Nadine heard about the treatment and it gave her a glimmer of hope.In the operation, the change was immediate.

"I couldn't believe it when my hand was out and still, but it happened immediately, even the experts were shocked," Nadine said. While deep brain stimulation will not help Nadine's MS, it has stopped the uncontrollable shakes in her right arm. Doctors are waiting a few months before they do her left side."It has given me back my independence," Nadine said.

For further information contact Dr Bittar at Precision Neurosurgery (03) 9821 5718.