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Celebrating progress on Parkinson’s treatment: deep brain stimulation

More people with Parkinson’s are benefiting from treatment with deep brain stimulation (DBS), a program developed to help people whose symptoms can no longer be controlled with medication.

On Feb. 5, 2019, government announced improved access to DBS for people with Parkinson’s disease through establishing and expanding a provincial program with a five-point plan that the Ministry of Health developed with Vancouver Coastal Health to address wait times.

“Since we first introduced our action plan in 2019, there has been significant progress and the Province has doubled the number of primary insertion DBS surgeries,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “When I first became minister of health, the number of surgeries performed was 31. I’m proud to report that we are on track to achieve Vancouver Coastal Health’s target of 72 primary insertions for fiscal year 2019-20, up from the existing 36, which will represent a 125% increase over the previous fiscal year. We’ve also reduced wait times by 13 weeks in the first year. The number of patients on the wait-list has dropped and will continue to drop with more progress to come. This is excellent news for those with Parkinson’s disease.”

Dr. Gary Redekop, head of neurosurgery, Vancouver Coastal Health, said, “People throughout B.C. with Parkinson’s disease have already benefited from expanded access to deep brain stimulation procedures. We are committed to continue to support the health, wellness and active lifestyles of our patients, and with these expanded services, we are seeing more people with Parkinson’s disease accessing this life-changing surgery.”

The plan used public health-care system solutions to increase the number of procedures by 100%. Beginning April 1, 2019, this program began maintaining a centralized wait-list and increased operating room time for DBS procedures. This plan has addressed wait times for almost all DBS patients, with the number of patients waiting for DBS and their average wait time decreasing between January 2019 and January 2020 from 74 patients waiting 53 weeks to 39 patients waiting 40 weeks.

DBS is a highly specialized procedure, with few clinicians across the country trained to perform it. In British Columbia, DBS patients receive care at Vancouver acute sites and from one surgeon located at Vancouver General Hospital. DBS uses electrical impulses to stimulate a target area in the brain. The stimulation affects movement by altering the activity in that area of the brain. The procedure does not destroy any brain tissue, and stimulation can be changed or stopped at any time. Surgery is required to implant the equipment that produces the electrical stimulation.

The formal establishment and expansion of the provincial DBS program is in addition to the government’s surgical strategy to increase surgical volumes through targeted investment and maximizing best practices and efficiencies. The surgical strategy is supported with ongoing targeted funding of $75 million in 2018-19, increased to $100 million in 2019-20.

Quick Facts:

  • Parkinson’s is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms may include tremors, stiff muscles, slow movement and/or problems with balance or walking.
  • Patients are typically eligible when medications to control motor function are ineffective.
  • Benefits of DBS can include fewer tremors, improved facial expression and reductions in medication.

Learn More:

View the Deep Brain Stimulation 2019-20 Annual Report:

View the original announcement:

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