Deep Brain Stimulation Helps Parkinson’s Disease Patients Drive

Published Online: Monday, March 17, 2014
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Deep brain stimulation may help patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) improve their driving, according to a study conducted in Germany.

The study used a driving simulator to evaluate the driving ability of 23 patients with PD who had undergone subthalamic nucleus deep brain simulation, 21 patients with PD who did not have deep brain stimulation, and 21 disease-free controls. Stimulation patients were tested once with their stimulators on, once with their stimulators off, and once with their stimulators off after taking levodopa. The researchers of the study analyzed differences in driving time and errors among the patient groups under 3 driving conditions. Their results were published in the December 18, 2013, issue of Neurology.

PD patients who did not receive brain stimulation performed significantly worse in driving time and errors compared with controls. Stimulation patients drove slower than all other patients, but they made a similar amount of errors as control patients and fewer errors than nonstimulator patients. Patients in the stimulation group performed better when the stimulators were on. On average, they made 11 errors with the stimulator on, 13 errors when the stimulator was off and they took levodopa, and 14 errors when the stimulator was off without medication.

The authors of the study suggest that driving permission for patients with PD treated with deep brain stimulation should not be more restrictive than permission for other patients with the disease

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