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Parkinson’s brain surgery works in older patients, too

New findings expand benefits of electrode-implant surgery to those over age 70 and suggest that many side effects are short-term

Brain surgeon Kenneth Follett had never received thank-you cards from his patients after performing an operation — until he started putting electrodes in their brains.

Follett, who holds positions at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Omaha, is among a select group of surgeons who over the past decade have been treating Parkinson’s disease by installing two tiny electrodes in a patient’s brain.

The change these devices induce can be astonishing, he says. Parkinson’s is characterized by brain degeneration, marked by a shortage of the neurotransmitter dopamine. That shortage results in movement problems. After surgery, many patients are suddenly able to get around, do household chores and even go shopping, Follett says. “It has the potential to change people’s lives.”

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