A remote-controlled brain implant capable of treating patients over 2,000 kilometres away is one of the latest technological innovations offering new private healthcare options for West Australians.
Hollywood Private Hospital is the only site in the state to provide remote programming of deep brain stimulation (DBS), which can help with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, and dystonia.
Neurologist Dr Julian Rodrigues can assess patients over live video and adjust their implanted DBS device for better symptom control.
“I can offer treatment to patients living 20km away, or over 2000km away, from the comfort of their own home,” he said.
“It’s a Godsend for movement-impaired patients who sometimes struggle to attend regular appointments.”
Dr Rodrigues and his colleague Associate Professor Steve Lewis, a neurosurgeon, are leading the Perth hospital’s adoption of such technology, also including intraoperative CT (computed tomography) scans – which aid surgical decision-making and can verify the success of a procedure while the patient is still in the operating theatre.
In 2017, Hollywood Private became the first hospital in Western Australia to implant a directional DBS lead system which allows more precise stimulation of minute areas of the brain and causes fewer side-effects for patients.
In 2022, it achieved another first with the surgical implantation of directional DBS electrodes capable of recording brain activity and providing insight into circuit functions.
The data from DBS recordings is expected to help shape future therapeutics, including the ongoing development of adaptive and intuitive DBS.
“It essentially downloads brain signals,” Dr Rodrigues said of the technology.
“By interpreting these signals, I am hopeful we can predict more specifically where to stimulate, reducing the trial-and-error aspect.
“The data-collecting capabilities of DBS recordings have exciting prospects in terms of analysing abnormal brain rhythms and developing automated treatment algorithms using AI (artificial intelligence).”