• U.S.

Medicine: FREEZING: AN ATTACK ON PARKINSON’S DISEASE

2 minute read
TIME

PARKINSON’S disease presents a distressing set of symptoms. The patient suffers from shaking palsy. His gait becomes abnormal, and eventually he cannot walk. Finally there is a boardlike rigidity to his entire body that renders him immobile.

Medical researchers have not yet found the cause of the disease, but surgeons have succeeded in treating its symptoms. New York’s Dr. Irving S. Cooper uses supercold liquid nitrogen to destroy an area of the brain that is responsible for the patient’s characteristic tremors.

After the patient’s head is shaved, he is given a local anesthetic at a carefully calculated spot on his head. Dr. Cooper then makes an incision and bores a hole in the patient’s skull. He places a bow-shaped instrument of his own design around the patient’s head, and using the instrument as a guide, carefully threads a long cannula (tube) toward the thalamus at the center of the brain.

X rays help Dr. Cooper in locating the spot that he wants to freeze in the thalamus. But to make sure that his cannula is on target, he conducts a simple test. A small amount of liquid nitrogen is pumped to the cannula tip to cool the thalamus. Dr. Cooper asks the patient to raise his hand. If the hand stops shaking, Dr. Cooper is assured that his cannula is properly placed; more liquid nitrogen is pumped through the cannula to destroy permanently a larger area in the thalamus. Thus far, Dr. Cooper has used his technique on 1,000 patients with 90% success and less than 1% mortality.

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