A 67-year-old man who has suffered from Parkinson's disease since his early 40s has become the first person in the world to be implanted with the Brio neurostimulator, which St. Jude Medical says has just earned CE Mark approval (CE stands for Conformite Europeenne).
Weighing in at just 1 ounce and measuring a mere 10 millimeters thick, the Brio is the smallest, longest-lasting rechargeable deep brain stimulator (DBS) that aims to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's in the world, according to its creator. One battery is supposed to survive a decade of recharging.
"Deep brain stimulation therapy is often the preferred treatment for many Parkinson's disease patients," says Dr. Volker Sturm, chairman of neurosurgery at the University Hospital of Cologne. "For these patients, device size and longevity are important considerations. The small size of the Brio neurostimulator is a real improvement and was a good choice for this patient."
Sturm's colleague, Dr. Mohammad Maarouf, implanted the Brio at the University Hospital of Cologne. Though the neurostimulator has been deemed safe in Europe, it has yet to be approved for use in the U.S. (Other existing DBS devices have U.S. approval, so the Brio is not the first of its kind, but purportedly the smallest, lightest, and longest-lasting.)
The Brio sends mild electrical pulses to specific areas in the brain, targeting and stimulating motor control structures. The neurostimulator is the device that generates the pulses; leads carry those pulses to the targets to influence the "irregular nerve signals" responsible for the symptoms of Parkinson's.
With the longest battery life of any rechargeable DBS device currently on the market, the Brio comes with a 10-year battery longevity approval. This means not only less replacement procedures for patients, but also a sustainable therapy with minimal recharging. The battery is charged conveniently through a portable, wireless charging system, allowing patients to multitask while recharging.
Parkinson's, categorized as a movement disorder, can lead to muscle rigidity, tremors, slower physical movements, and even a total loss of physical movement. Several famous figures have suffered from the disease, including Salvador Dalí, Muhammad Ali, Pope John Paul II, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, and of course more recently, Michael J. Fox.