DBS for Stroke: Helping Survivors to Move Again

Although recovery can take a lifetime, patients seem to see the most improvement within the first year.
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 11:54 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CLEVELAND, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Every year, almost 800,000 people in the U.S. suffer a stroke – that comes out to about every 40 seconds, someone’s life is changed. It’s the leading cause of serious long-term disability. Although recovery can take a lifetime, patients seem to see the most improvement within the first year. But now, for the first time in humans, a groundbreaking procedure is helping to bring back movement years after patients suffer a stroke.

Stan Shipkosky’s life revolves around music. Singer and guitarist in the Burnt River Band, he traveled around the country doing what he loved, until he had a stroke six years ago.

“I asked the doctor if I died. He goes, ‘No.’ He says, ‘You’re okay. You had a real bad stroke.’,” Shipkosky recalls.

Left leg, left arm, left hand – nothing worked. He lived with limited mobility for years until Stan became part of the nation’s first human clinical trial testing deep brain stimulation – or DBS – for stroke recovery. DBS has already been used to stop tremors in Parkinson’s patients, but this is modified – not to stop movement, but to start it.

“In Parkinson’s disease, typically, we go from the top of the brain. For a stroke, the work was done, actually, from the back of the brain, in a part of the brain called the cerebellum,” explains Chairman neurosurgeon at Neurological Institute of the Cleveland Clinic, Andre Machado, MD, PhD.

The electrodes are connected to a pace-maker device and delivers small electrical pulses to the brain. In the study, patients received DBS for up to eight months.

Dr. Machado further explains, “We saw significant benefits between four to eight months after turning on the DBS; they continue to improve.”

After turning off the DBS, whatever they gained, remained.

Shipkosky hopes that DBS will be available again soon, so he can get back more of what he lost.

While the procedure offers potential benefits, it also comes with risks, including hemorrhage, infection and neurological complications. The researchers are now enrolling for a larger randomized control trial at the Cleveland Clinic hoping to prove the benefits of DBS in stroke patients.