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Deep Brain Stimulation Offers Hope and Healing

Baylor patient Katie Whitson talks about undergoing deep brain stimulation for her obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Grateful Patients Help Baylor Make Strides in the Treatment of Neuropsychiatric Disorders

Sameer Sheth, M.D., Ph.D., in the operating room during a deep brain stimulation procedure

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects an estimated 2-3 million adults in the U.S. Patients caught in the condition’s continuous loop of unwanted obsessions and compulsions find everyday tasks difficult and are therefore often severely debilitated. Now thanks to progress at the Functional Neurophysiology Lab at Baylor College of Medicine, deep brain stimulation (DBS) offers help and hope on the horizon.

“We’re seeing significant promise with DBS as a means to help individuals overcome their OCD, making a tremendous difference for them and their families,” said Sameer Sheth, M.D., Ph.D., professor and vice chair of Research, Department of Neurosurgery, Cullen Foundation Endowed Chair, McNair Scholar and director of The Gordon and Mary Cain Pediatric Neurology Research Foundation Laboratories at Texas Children’s Hospital.

When a patient undergoes DBS, neurosurgeons implant a device akin to a brain “pacemaker” to deliver electrical signals that regulate abnormal impulses and chemicals within the brain. This surgical option is available to the 20-30% of patients with OCD who do not respond to conventional treatment, including medications and behavioral therapies. DBS shows longer-term durability when compared with other non-surgical neuromodulatory methods.

“Many more patients could benefit from DBS, so it’s critical as healthcare professionals to do all we can to develop best practices, raise awareness and increase education about the treatment as a viable option,” Dr. Sheth said.

Dr. Sheth’s goal of growing awareness and making DBS readily available to patients in need received help from two grateful patient families. Their combined $150,000 gift supported an international conference at Baylor to advance knowledge around the benefits of using DBS to treat OCD and other mood and anxiety disorders.