TUESDAY, Oct. 27, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that deep brain stimulation, already a common treatment for some neurological conditions, may be an effective way to treat Tourette syndrome.
"Our findings hold promise for helping people with severe Tourette syndrome, who are in need of new treatment options to improve their quality of life," study author Dr. Andrea Cavanna, of the University of Birmingham in England, said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.
An estimated 2 million Americans suffer from Tourette syndrome, which is best known for making people uncontrollably shout words out loud. Other symptoms include spastic movements, facial tics, shoulder shrugging and jerking of the head or shoulders.
In the new study, 15 patients with severe Tourette syndrome plus obsessive compulsive disorder received deep brain stimulation -- electrical impulses -- through a surgically implanted brain pacemaker.
The subjects had about half as many tics on average after the treatment, and their symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety fell by 26 percent to 33 percent, the researchers reported in the Oct. 27 issue of the journal Neurology.
"Despite having only 15 patients in this study, it is the largest to date on the effectiveness of deep brain stimulation as a treatment for Tourette syndrome," Cavanna said. "The results showed that all 15 people who were assessed after two years' treatment experienced improvements in disabling tics and neurological problems, which is encouraging," Cavanna added.
"Unfortunately, three patients from the original group of 18 were no longer part of the study at follow-up and this limits the ability to generalize our findings. More research needs to be done to confirm that deep brain stimulation is a safe and effective treatment for Tourette syndrome," Cavanna said.
Learn more about Tourette syndrome from the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.