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Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Brain surgery may cure Tourette's
Jeff Matovic, a person living with Tourette's (Picture courtesy of University Hospitals of Cleveland)
Mr Matovic underwent surgery in February
Doctors in the US have carried out brain surgery on a 31-year-old man in a bid to cure him of Tourette syndrome.

Jeff Matovic from Ohio has had the disorder, which is characterised by uncontrollable vocalisations and movement, since he was six.

Doctors used a technique called deep brain stimulation, which involves placing tiny electrodes inside the brain to regulate electrical activity.

They say his symptoms have all but disappeared since the operation.

"We were genuinely amazed at the patient's response," said Dr Robert Maciunas, who carried out the surgery.

We were genuinely amazed
Dr Robert Maciunas

Deep brain stimulation has been used on patients with Parkinson's disease, to help reduce the shaking associated with the condition.

The electrodes are placed deep inside the brain beside the thalamus, which controls movement.

They send out high frequency electrical signals continuously in an attempt to redress the shortfall that is causing the tremors or, in Mr Matovic's case, uncontrollable movement.

The electrodes are powered by a battery, which is implanted under skin. A tiny wire runs from inside the brain, beneath the scalp, down the neck and into the upper chest where the battery is located.

Tiny electrodes

Mr Matovic has had electrodes implanted on both sides of his brain and tiny batteries implanted on each side of his chest because he suffers uncontrollable movement on both sides of his body.

"We didn't know how Jeff would respond," said Dr Brian Maddux, Mr Matovic's neurologist.

To say my life has changed is a total understatement. I have a new life
"Within hours after the stimulator was turned on, we observed the ceaseless movements become completely relaxed and he was able to walk normally. We were awestruck."

Mr Matovic said the surgery has transformed his life. His jerking motions, uncontrollable muscle movements and grunting have now all disappeared.

"To say my life has changed is a total understatement. I have a new life. I am a baby experiencing things for the first time," he told BBC News Online.

"I have spent the past 28 years not being able to fit in and being laughed at. I am doing things that I have never been able to do before."

Doctors at University Hospital of Cleveland said the procedure could help thousands of people with Tourette syndrome.

"This technique holds great promise for patients suffering from this movement disorder, which often is diagnosed in childhood or early adolescence and can be completely debilitating," said Dr Maciunas.

Dr Hugh Rickards, a consultant neuropsychiatrist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, welcomed the operation.

"There have been one or two attempts at this around the world," he told BBC News Online.

"It is very, very interesting and there is potential for further research."


SEE ALSO:
Tourette Syndrome
15 Jul 03  |  Medical notes
Tourettes link to special needs
23 Oct 01  |  Health
Nicotine help for Tourette's
17 Sep 01  |  Health


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