Kim Burchiel, Oregon Health & Science University – Deep Brain Stimulation

Burchiel_Kim_15Can a hockey goalie for your brain help stop Parkinson’s?

Kim Burchiel, Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at Oregon Health & Science University, discusses how deep brain stimulation can help treat this debilitating disease.

Dr. Burchiel is the John Raaf Professor in the OHSU Department of Neurological Surgery. Dr. Burchiel served as department chair for 27 years from 1988-2015.

His interests include functional and stereotactic neurosurgery, pain surgery, and epilepsy surgery. Dr. Burchiel’s research interests are concerned with the physiology of nociception and neuropathic pains, including trigeminal neuralgia, the neurosurgical treatment of movement disorders, and image-guided neurosurgery. The Functional and Stereotactic Neurosurgery program encompasses a broad spectrum of surgical and nonsurgical treatments to manage and restore neurological function. Special programs include surgical management of movement disorders, surgical pain management, epilepsy surgery, peripheral nerve surgery, radiosurgery and stereotactic computer assisted neurosurgery. The Surgical Pain Management program is a national leader in the treatment of orofacial pains, including trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureaux).Visit the Department of Neurological Surgery’s website for information about academics, conferences, residency and fellowships.

Deep Brain Stimulation



It’s said that Parkinson’s is a boutique disease because no two people’s bodies are impacted in the exact same manner by a steep drop in dopamine levels in the brain.

But the experience of coping with Parkinson’s, is universally challenging.

Parkinson’s isn’t fatal, but it can cause a lifetime of debilitating symptoms from their ability to walk, type at a computer, talk with family members and engage in their daily activities.

The medications to treat the symptoms of this disease come with side effects so severe that it’s impossible for some patients to take any therapeutic treatments. Moreover, for the majority of patients, as the disease progresses, the medications’ effectiveness wears off.

Until a cure arrives, there is a surgical option.

Deep brain stimulation, which can reduce or, in some cases, completely eliminate symptoms.

Electrodes are inserted into specific corners of the brain and a pacemaker-type neurostimulator is implanted into the patient’s collarbone. The device emits a high-frequency, low voltage current into targeted brain regions. 

Like a champion ice hockey goalie, the neurostimulator blocks electrical signals from specific areas within the brain.

We don’t know exactly how it works, but we do know that most of the current evidence points to a change in neuronal output, rather than a silencing of neurons.

Five years ago, surgeons at Oregon Health & Science University began performing the procedure while patients are “asleep.” Asleep DBS has now spread to a handful of medical centers across the country. This approach helps make the surgery both more comfortable for the patient and more precise. What we see are not only faster surgeries, but fewer overnight stays in the hospital, lower risk and better outcomes.

In some patients, the effects are so profound that you would never know that they have Parkinson’s.

As we work relentlessly to find a cure, our goal is to make this powerful tool even more effective.  





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