Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Monday, 24 January 2011

Bristol team pioneers depression surgery technique

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Surgery to treat long term depression

A medical team at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol is pioneering a new form of surgery to treat long term depression.

The technique is called deep brain stimulation and involves the use of electrodes which are implanted into the brain through holes drilled in the skull.

The electrodes are then inserted into a battery pack which delivers small amounts of electricity to stimulate or inhibit specific areas in the brain.

A trial is underway involving eight patients to compare the effects of stiumulating two different areas of the brain.

The first patient to have the electrodes inserted was Sheila Cook, 62, from Torquay who had been suffering from severe depression for nine years.

She said: "I just wanted life to end. It was like being in a dark tunnel, but instead of there being light at the end of it, it was just darkness."

In Sheila's case the deep brain stimulation only had a short term benefit so she went on to have a second operation, called ablative surgery, to further improve her condition.

She says: "I suddenly woke up in the morning and I thought I feel different, I want to get up, I want to do things. And my whole view of life changed."

The research team hopes that deep brain stimulation might one day replace the more destructive ablative surgery that Sheila received.

The results from seven further participants on the trial will be published later in the year.



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