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First deep brain stimulator surgery at Minneapolis VA Medical Center

photo of surgeons wearing scrubs standing around an operating table; there is a patient on the table
Minneapolis VA neurosurgical team performs first deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery on Veteran.

Minneapolis VA Health Care System (VAHCS) performed its first deep brain stimulator (DBS) implantation surgery on November 24, 2021, a huge milestone for both Minneapolis VA and the VA Midwest Health Care Network (VISN 23).

Veterans within our health care network can now be referred to Minneapolis VA for consideration for DBS as a treatment for essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease and dystonia. Previously, Veterans from VISN 23 had to travel to San Francisco VA or access care in the community to be considered for the surgery.

Scott Lewis, MD, PhD, Staff Neurologist, DBS and Movement Disorders, has used deep brain stimulation to help patients  for many years, although the surgeries were performed elsewhere. With our ability to perform DBS surgery at the Minneapolis VA medical center, Veterans who meet the criteria can be referred and complete the workup process in Minneapolis, have the surgery here, and be managed either in Minneapolis or closer to home.

Deep brain stimulator surgery consists of placing an electrode into a specific area of the brain depending on the patient’s condition. Robert McGovern, MD, Staff Neurosurgeon, and the Minneapolis VA neurosurgical team “map” the area of the brain using a combination of brain recordings and the patient’s active movements. During mapping, the patient is woken up and asked to perform a series of coordination and fine motor tasks. This ensures the electrode is placed in a location in the brain where the patient will get the most benefit.

After the surgery, the Veteran works closely with Neurosurgery and Neurology to program the device in order to optimize function. Neurology will continue to manage the Veteran’s DBS device as well as medications for their neurological condition over their lifetime.

Throughout the workup process and after the surgery, the Veteran is cared for from a self-care and daily function perspective by Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation providers and therapists (physical, occupational and speech therapy). The Rehabilitation, Neurology, and Neurosurgery providers work as a team to maximize the Veteran’s function and overall quality of life.

With funding received through a VISN 23 strategic initiative, Minneapolis VA Health Care System has expanded its care for Veterans with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. To learn more about the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Program at Minneapolis VA, request a referral to Neurology through your primary care provider. If already established with Neurology but not Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, request a referral from your neurologist. We look forward to continued expanded programming and services for Veterans with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders.

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