Last Sunday evening, Greg Grindley, a 49-year-old electrician from Ohio, underwent the first-ever televised live brain surgery in the United States at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The procedure went smoothly, and now physicians say that Grindley is up and walking.
The two-hour event, Brain Surgery Live with mental_floss, was a partnership between mental_floss and the National Geographic Channel. The show documented Grindley’s deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery, which surgeons hope will reverse symptoms of his Parkinson’s.
DBS is an elective procedure that’s used to treat essential tremor and Parkinson’s. Physicians drill a hole into the skull, and then they place electrodes deep into the brain, which are connected to a battery device. The device provides electric pulses, which block abnormal activity in the brain that causes symptoms like trembling hands, rigidity, stiffness, and movement problems. Since doctors need to monitor electrical activity in the brain during the surgery and make sure the electrodes are in the right place, patients are kept awake throughout the procedure. During the entire televised surgery, Grindley was conscious so he could provide the medical team with feedback.
Doctors say they won’t know for several weeks or months whether the procedure was successful. However, Grindley's recovery is reportedly going well. On Monday, the National Geographic Channel wrote on Facebook that nurses say he "sprinted around the floor" and then “only used a walker because someone temporarily misplaced his cane.” Grindley was cleared to go home later that day.
The procedure isn’t a cure, says Dr. Jonathan Miller, the lead neurosurgeon on the team that performed DBS on Grindley. In the coming months, doctors will figure out which of the DBS device’s 50,000 settings is best for Grindley, and they’ll also have to manage his medications. His tremors might be reduced, but his Parkinson's will also likely progress. However, the surgery might improve Grindley's quality of life, and allow him to perform simple actions—like walking without a cane—that he wasn’t able to before.
Brain Surgery Live with Mental FlossFrom 'Brain Surgery Live with Mental Floss' last night: This is the moment doctors activate the electrode they implanted in Greg’s brain—and the tremor in his right hand stops immediately. (via National Geographic Channel) Posted by mental_floss on Monday, October 26, 2015