Cumberland Times-News

Local News

November 11, 2012

Surgery treats Burlington man’s Parkinson’s disease

Dale Sines first person to have deep brain stimulation procedures in Winchester

BURLINGTON, W.Va. — Dale Sines is the first person at the Winchester (Va.) Medical Center to undergo deep brain stimulation surgery to treat Parkinson’s disease, and the surgery has been life-altering for the 70-year-old Burlington resident.

“I’m able to hunt and fish all day now, which for me is a big thing. I love the woods,” said Sines. “I have fewer tremors, my speech and walk have improved and most importantly, my sleep schedule has gotten 100 precent better. Before the surgeries I didn’t fall asleep until 3 or 4 in the morning and wake up early. Now I wake up later and stay asleep longer. The surgeries have also gotten rid of my stiffness (in the limbs and trunk), I can talk faster and louder and I can walk up and down the steps faster. Before the surgery I could only take one step at a time.”

Not only is Sines the first to have the surgery in Winchester — he is the only person to have undergone the operation at the medical center thus far. Several patients there are in the process of being evaluated but haven’t yet had the surgery, according to  Dr. Mariecken Fowler, a neurologist with Winchester Neurological Consultants.

“We hope to have quite a few more in the future,” said Fowler.

The evaluation process takes about six weeks, according to Fowler.

“There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease but the surgery provided a better quality of life for Dale and helped relieve his symptoms,” said Sines’ wife, Rose. “Before the surgeries Dale was getting pretty bad and could have ended up not being able to walk  and been in a wheelchair if he didn’t have the surgery.”

“It (surgery) was well worth it,” added Sines.  

Although the DBS didn’t cure him, it helped significantly decrease the amount of medication needed to control his symptoms.

“DBS can decrease the amount of medication required by a patient by approximately 50 percent and these medications often have significant side effects," Fowler said in a news release. “Medication treatment can result in significant fluctuations of symptoms throughout the day and night.  DBS helps to keep a much more even level of functioning through the day, therefore helping quality of life significantly.”

Sines was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2005, and underwent a two-part DBS surgical process that began on Sept. 18. During the first surgery, Dr. Lee Selznick, a neurosurgeon with the Virginia Brain and Spine Center, inserted two electrodes in the area of the brain that helps to control movement known as the globus pallidus, according to a news release from WMC. Wires connected to the electrodes are brought through the skull and placed beneath the scalp. Sines indicated that he was awake for this surgery, couldn’t feel anything and that he could see Fowler and Selznick.

“There are three potential targets for DBS treatment: the thalamus, subthalamic nucleus, or globus pallidus,” said Selznick in the news release. “The target is chosen based on the patient’s specific symptom profile.”

The electrode or lead is a thin, insulated wire that is inserted through a small opening in the skull and implanted in the brain, according to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The tip of the electrode is positioned within the targeted brain area and is connected. The electrode is attached to a small battery in the chest wall and is connect by wires that are placed under the skin.

“Dr. Selznick and Dr. Fowler have a passion for helping patients with Parkinson’s disease. We are excited that they are making this treatment option available,” said Tonya Smith, Winchester Medical Center vice president of operations in the news release. “This is an innovative service and one that we expect to grow in the coming year.”

The second phase of the surgery took place on Oct. 5 when the deep brain stimulator was implanted in Sines upper chest and was connected to the electrodes.  

Fowler worked with Selznick and coordinated the micro-electrode recording and programming of the deep brain stimulator. Fowler activated the deep brain stimulator on Oct. 8 and Sines gained immediate relief from a number of the symptoms associated with his disease, according to Rose. When the stimulator is turned on it interrupts the normal flow of information in the brain and can help to decrease the symptoms.

The Sineses learned about Selznick and Fowler after speaking with a local doctor and waited about a year before having the surgery.

The recovery process went well for Sines, who noted that the doctors were mainly concerned about infection, which he was able to avoid. Following the surgeries, Sines was in rehabilitation, were his balance  was tested for a few days.

 Parkinson's disease is a slowly progressing, degenerative disease that results from the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Dopamine is a substance produced in the body that has many effects, including smooth and coordinated muscle movement.

About 60,000 Americans are newly diagnosed with Parkinson's disease each year, and more than 1 million Americans affected at any one time. More people suffer from Parkinson's disease than multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis combined.

Sines’ advice for people dealing with the disease is to “put their faith in God and put their trust in doctors.”

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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