AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 2, 2020

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Beware of Swimming if You Use Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson’s

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Researchers have identified nine cases of people who lost their ability to swim after having a deep brain stimulation device implanted to control symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. All nine people had been good swimmers even after their Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. But once they had deep brain stimulation surgery, researchers found while other movement symptoms improved, their swimming skills deteriorated.

“Until more research is done to determine why some people with deep brain stimulation can no longer swim, it is crucial that people be told now of the potential risk of drowning and the need for a carefully supervised assessment of their swimming skills before going into deep water,” said author Daniel Waldvogel, MD, of the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

For deep brain stimulation, electrodes are placed in certain areas of the brain to control abnormal movements. The electrodes are connected to a device placed under the skin in the upper chest. The device controls the electrical impulses.

Of the nine documented cases, three are highlighted in the research paper. Each person’s movement symptoms improved after deep brain stimulation.

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