You are viewing AANS Neurosurgeon Volume 25, Number 3, 2016. View our current issue, Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 25, Number 3, 2016

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Could Parkinson's Disease Start in the Gut?

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Parkinson’s disease may start in the gut and spread to the brain via the vagus nerve, according to a study. The vagus nerve extends from the brainstem to the abdomen and controls unconscious body processes like heart rate and food digestion. The preliminary study examined people who had resection surgery, removing the main trunk or branches of the vagus nerve. The surgery, called vagotomy, is used for people with ulcers. Researchers used national registers in Sweden to compare 9,430 people who had a vagotomy over a 40-year period to 377,200 people from the general population. During that time, 101 people who had a vagotomy developed Parkinson’s disease, or 1.07 percent, compared to 4,829 people in the control group, or 1.28 percent. This difference was not significant. But when researchers analyzed the results for the two different types of vagotomy surgery, they found that people who had a truncal vagotomy at least five years earlier were less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those who had not had the surgery and had been followed for at least five years. In a truncal vagotomy, the nerve trunk is fully resected. In a selective vagotomy, only some branches of the nerve are resected.

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