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'Deep brain stimulation' technique could arrive in Ireland

The technique, which involves inserting an electrode into the brain, can help sufferers of neurological conditions.

Scan of a brain
Scan of a brain
Image: Liz Henry via Flickr

HEALTH AUTHORITIES ARE set to examine whether a ‘deep brain stimulation’ service should be introduced in Ireland to treat patients with some neurological disorders.

The therapy involves inserting an electrode into the brain, connected to a battery which is placed under the patient’s skin. Electrical stimulation of an area of the brain can help manage symptoms of some conditions.

Deep brain stimulation is used internationally to help with Parkinson’s disease, dystonia – a condition where muscles involuntarily contract – and similar disorders.

Currently, patients considered suitable for the treatment are sent to hospitals abroad to have the operation. However, HIQA have announced plans to carry out a “health technology assessment” of the treatment’s potential introduction in Ireland.

Officials will examine what would be required to introduce the service, and what the cost would be. This will then be compared with the cost of sending patients abroad.

“Irish patients considered suitable for Deep Brain Stimulation surgery are usually referred by the HSE to specialist centres abroad, mainly to the UK,” said Martin Flattery of HIQA.

“By estimating the resources required and their associated costs, this HTA will evaluate the feasibility of establishing a national service in Ireland.”

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Michael Freeman

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