Dystonia treated with surgically implanted pacemaker

UCLA Health article

Veronica Jacobs suffered from a debilitating neurological (or brain) disorder called dystonia. The disease caused this otherwise healthy teenager to experience abnormal muscular twitches and spasms. The condition deteriorated over several years to a point where Veronica could no longer walk and was virtually wheelchair-bound.

Approximately 125,000 Americans suffer from dystonia. The condition is a result of the brain firing abnormally, sending impulses of electricity to muscles that causes them to contract constantly. The treatment Veronica's doctor, UCLA neurosurgeon Dr. Antonio DeSalles, recommended was to surgically implant a pacemaker device to stop the impulses and block the transmission of electricity to the muscles.

The procedure involves first implanting the electrodes and threading the wires into the patient's brain. A second operation connects the electrodes to a compact generator. The pacemaker is then programmed to battle the brain.

Doctors expected the surgery, at a minimum, would allow Veronica to become spasm-free, and regain her ability to sit up. The surgical outcome proved far more successful. Veronica was able to walk within a few days, and gave her a new lease on life. Today, Veronica smiles like never before.

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