This is really quite something to behold: A DBS lead with electrodes small enough to potentially stimulate individual neurons. The genius lies in applying the technology used in semiconductor chip design to create a lead with many tiny electrodes that can then be activated and controlled with an extraordinary level of precision.
The public relations team at St. Jude Medical is keeping busy. A press release this week announced that all of the 136 participants in its DBS device trial had received their implants. The release wasn’t clear about the expected length of the trial or what exactly the trial is designed to demonstrate.
In Ireland, the system simply sends you across the channel. Why? Finite capacity in the prescribed ranks of neurosurgeons, no doubt.
An article in The New York Times makes a point that might seem self-evident: Patients fitted with heart devices had fewer problems when those devices were implanted by doctors who had special training. I think this finding is very relevant for devices implanted in other areas of the body, particularly in the brain. Consider this point:
Most implant procedures, about 70 percent, were performed by electrophysiologists, the study reported. The remaining implants were done by other types of cardiologists or other kinds of doctors including thoracic surgeons. The study found that the highest rate of serious complications about 2.5 percent, occurred among thoracic surgeons, who accounted for only 1.7 percent of the procedures reviewed.
The article also provides a strong argument for the creation of a national electronic medical records system. The findings were based on filings made to a national database created in 1995 when Medicare and Medicaid agreed to paying for more implanted defibrillators. One can only imagine the other bits of hard science to be gleaned from records based on data from millions of eople.