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Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004, 02:48 GMT 03:48 UK
'How surgery helped me beat Tourettes'
By Ray Dunne
BBC News Online health staff

Jeff Matovic (Picture courtesy of University Hospitals of Cleveland)
Jeff underwent surgery in February
Jeff Matovic has had pioneering brain surgery to cure his Tourette syndrome.

He tells BBC News Online how the operation has transformed his life.

Mr Matovic was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at the age of six. He has suffered from uncontrollable tics for the past 25 years.

His limbs have been prone to sudden movement and he has regularly taken to grunting or shouting for no apparent reason.

"It happened constantly. Some of the tics were replaced by others. When my arms weren't active, my legs were or I was more vocal. It was 24-7. I didn't get a break."

In the early years, Mr Matovic was prescribed medication to try to relieve some of the symptoms.

I have spent the past 28 years not being able to fit in and being laughed at
Jeff Matovic

"It was still difficult. I found it very difficult to concentrate at school. My head was shaking and my eyes were constantly changing position."

Despite his condition, Mr Matovic who lives in Lyndhurst, Ohio, finished school and went on to university. "It was a big challenge but I was able to complete after a few years."

By the time he reached his 20s, however, the drugs were starting to have less effect. "They started to taper off," he says.

Over the past few years, his symptoms have become progressively worse.

"I felt pinned into a corner. The medications had failed. I felt I had no opportunities left."

Experimental surgery

The 33-year-old came across an experimental technique for treating Tourette syndrome. It involved placing tiny electrodes deep inside the brain to try to give patients greater control over their limbs and their voice.

Last July, he visited doctors at his local hospital and demanded that they carry out the treatment on him.

To say my life has changed is a total understatement - I have a new life.
Jeff Matovic
"They took a lot of convincing. They hadn't really done anything like this before for Tourette syndrome."

Dr Robert Maciunas and colleagues at University Hospitals of Cleveland agreed to perform the operation.

Jeff underwent surgery in February to have the electrodes implanted. Three weeks later, doctors turned them on.

"The results were immediate. Within 25 seconds, I felt better. I felt totally relaxed.

"It was like taking a sedative. It was a very welcome feeling, especially knowing that I wasn't drugged up."

One month on and Jeff's life has been completely transformed. Doctors say the prognosis for the future is much better.

"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.

"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.

"I am able to consider jobs that I couldn't do before. I am able to play with my stepchildren.

"I am able to go to the store and I'm not be afraid to pick something up in case I break it."

Tourette Syndrome
15 Jul 03  |  Medical notes


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