PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Parkinson’s disease is a condition where there’s shaking, stiffness, and slowness. It’s related to the breakdown of brain cells that make the chemical signal dopamine, but local doctors have discovered another possibility.

Dr. Peter Janetta is a neurosurgeon known for something called microvascular decompression, which involves repositioning and cushioning blood vessels that push on brain structures and cause problems.

He used this technique to help a patient with a condition called trigeminal neuralgia, where a blood vessel presses on a nerve and causes facial tics and pain.

The patient also had Parkinson’s disease.

“I looked at the scan and there was a posterior cerebral artery pressing on the midbrain and I thought that could very easily be the cause of this,” Dr. Janetta explained. “I picked it up and I slid something under it.”

After this surgery to put move the artery away from the midbrain — the part affected by Parkinson’s — the symptoms were surprisingly gone.

“This appears to be the first time Parkinson’s has really been cured,” Dr. Janetta added.

Based on this case, a study compared the MRI scans of 20 patients with the condition and 20 without. The radiologist did not know who was who. In three out of four cases of Parkinson’s, the radiologist noted a blood vessel pressing on the area of the brain where Parkinson’s comes from.

Multi-center trials will be starting in the next six months to see if the surgery truly makes a difference in people with the disease.

“We have so much to learn, though, so it’s so exciting,” Dr. Janetta added. “I think that with high standards, the right people operating, and the right institutions, for the right indications on the right patients, this is going to change our lives.”

A small study like this won’t change the standard of care for Parkinson’s, which include medicines to reduce tremor and stiffness.

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AGH Neurosurgeon May Have Breakthrough On Parkinson’s (Pittsburgh Tribune Review, 9/8/11)
MRI Study Shows Brain Blood Vessel Abnormality May Be Factor in Parkinson’s Disease” (PRWeb.com)
Parkinson’s Disease (MedlinePlus.gov)
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