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The future of functional neurosurgery is going to be really interesting.
This isn’t exactly next day stuff they’re discussing in this NPR story, but it is really fun to see it in the main stream media.
I have major concerns about deep brain stimulation as psychosurgery, not because it might not be effective, but because of the patient population and the systems in place to manage such long term. Few surgeons are going to manage the a patient with depression and the implanted device status post implantation. The devices being studied are largely already in use for other indications; most notably movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease but the movement disorder neurologists managing such have spent years getting familiar with such. Building a large population of psychiatrists managing such is feasible, especially considering reimbursement associated with managing these, but such is going to take time. It is also going to be very circular, as all new technologies are, in that the more that are implanted the more psychiatrist will manage them but the more psychiatrists managing them the more that are likely to be implanted. As another possibility I’m not sure I’d want one physician managing the device and another the patient’s meds.
It is common practice in some techniques for putting in deep brain stimulator electrodes to keep patient’s awake to make sure the electrode is in the right place and giving good symptom relief. Likewise for parts of some surgeries for brain tumors you might have a patient awake to “map” their brain surrounding the tumor so as to not damage important parts that control things like movements or speech. You may ask patients to do certain tasks while they’re awake so that you can see if the stimulation is working or see if an area of the brain is involved in such a task. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone playing the guitar during a surgery however.
An uninsured Seattle man has put out an ad offering to trade his 2006 Mustang GT for brain surgery. He provides an image from a MRI of his brain even. The poster doesn’t describe what symptoms he attributes to his arachnoid cyst but the relationship between arachnoid cysts and late symptoms is often difficult to establish.
Arachnoid cysts have been associated with headaches, nausea, seizures, vertigo and even in anecdotal cases with psychiatric symptoms or the onset of dementia. But the relationship is often hard to establish. Up to a third of people with chronic headaches have some sort of abnormality on there MRI, including arachnoid cysts. Relating the findings and the symptoms is often difficult; sometimes you have a finding on an MRI or a CT scan but it is a red herring as far as the symptoms are concerned.
Arachnoid cysts are collections of cerebrospinal fluid trapped between the brain and spinal cord and the arachnoid membrane. They’re primarily a congenital entity but can be associated with trauma, infection or be iatrogenic following surgery. The vast majority of cysts are discovered incidentally and associated with no major symptoms. While even asymptomatic cysts can progress to cause symptoms and they can be associated with post traumatic, or even spontaneous, hemorrhage the risk of such is low enough that in small asymptomatic cysts it is often more than reasonable to do nothing.
I’m a little bit dubious of the poster as he relates that he’s been thinking of trying to get to the cyst himself. However, if it’s an honest post I think the poster really needs to sit down with a neurosurgeon in consultation and go over the above in detail and discuss the best course of action.