In a first-of-its-kind showing, the National Geographic Channel will live televise implantation of a deep brain stimulation system on Sunday, October 25 at 9 p.m. ET. Greg Grindley will undergo the procedure at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, while more than a dozen cameras stream the surgery live to cable subscribers.
The surgeons involved say this is an educational moment for people with Parkinson’s disease to learn more about deep brain stimulation. Critics are vocal that the television coverage may compromise patient safety.
“A lot of people aren’t aware that we have these therapies available and a lot of patients suffer needlessly. Our goal is to publicize the problem and the solution,” lead surgeon Jonathon Miller, MD, told National Geographic. “This is not a truly cutting-edge procedure. We do it every week.”
On the other side are those who say the approach is “risky and exploitive,” as The Boston Globe reported.
“It’s hard to say we are getting serious about patient safety when putting on circus acts like live brain surgery,” Duke Cameron, MD, cardiac surgeon-in-charge at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, told the newspaper. “This kind of behavior is absurd.”
Deep brain stimulation is approved for treatment of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and essential tremor. A neurosurgeon implants thin electrodes into the brain, targeting motor circuits that are not functioning properly. Small electrical pulses from a device similar to a pacemaker implanted in the chest modulate the signals that cause some of the PD motor symptoms. While a powerful treatment for many people living with Parkinson’s, this therapy does not treat all symptoms and isn’t suitable for all patients.
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Watch a webinar on work to improve deep brain stimulation capabilities.