Glenwood surgeon performs tremor-reducing procedure

A Glenwood Springs neurosurgeon provides a rare procedure on the Western Slope — deep brain stimulation.

The procedure was developed half a century ago to treat pain but has evolved into a treatment to help steady people with movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Essential tremor and dystonia. The procedure is being tested elsewhere in people with a range of other issues, ranging from eating disorders to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The deep brain stimulation procedure involves inserting electrodes into a patient’s brain. The electrodes are controlled by a pacemaker-like device that is placed under the skin somewhere in the torso, usually near a clavicle. The electrodes stimulate particular parts of the brain to treat specific conditions through electrical impulses controlled by the device in the torso.

Dr. Claudio Feler, 54, has performed the procedure since 1985 and at Valley View Hospital for the last year-and-a-half. He said he has seen patients go from shaky to steady after the procedure. Although it will not outright cure Parkinson’s, Feler said patients can sometimes cut their medication intake in half after the procedure.

Feler had one patient who could not drink a glass of water without spilling it all over her lap and her chest. After the procedure, he spotted her at a local restaurant.

“She took a sip of iced tea and was steady as could be,” he said.

Feler said the procedure is generally safe but there can be complications, including infection, bleeding and movement of the electrodes. The procedure isn’t right for everyone, he said, adding he does about as many deep brain stimulation procedures as he does brain ablations or procedures that selectively destruct brain tissue.

“The right candidate has failed medical treatments or had complications from medical treatment” and is not deep into dementia, he said. “There are plenty of valid candidates on the Western Slope.”

Anyone interested in the procedure or contacting Feler can call 970-384-6770 or visit http://www.vvh.org for information.

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