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Deep brain stimulation surgery a first for Townsville

The first deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery in regional Australia has been successfully performed on patients with Parkinson’s disease at Mater Private Hospital Townsville.

Burdekin local and former electrician Rob Jorgensen was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 15 years ago.

He recently became the first patient to have DBS surgery at Townsville’s Mater Private Hospital.

Led by Mater neurologist Dr Craig Costello, the intricate procedure involved a team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, anaesthetists, and scientists to safely insert electrodes in Mr Jorgensen’s brain to help relieve debilitating symptoms of the disease.

Mr Jorgensen, 63, said he had been forced to retire and was left with no options to treat his condition, apart from taking medication eight times a day.

“The surgery has really helped me,” he said.

“I used to have involuntary movement in my arms and legs and my friends have noticed an improvement in my speech. I’m on a lot less medication too.”

Former cane farmer and Innisfail resident Mark Pernase, 66, also underwent DBS to control severe tremors in his right hand which was impacting his ability to perform simple daily tasks like holding a cup of tea.

“I didn’t have much to look forward to and now that has changed,” Mr Pernase said.

“I am essentially tremor free and it happened almost instantly after the surgery.

“Now I can think about having a future.”

Dr Costello trained with leading specialists Professor Matt McDonald and Professor Rob Wilcox in Adelaide and Melbourne for two years to bring the game-changing service to the Townsville community.

Dr Costello said DBS was ‘life-changing’ for people with Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor or dystonia, and offering the procedure locally was a triumph for North Queenslanders.

“DBS has two main advantages compared to pharmacological therapy. DBS is always on, unlike medication which can wear off, and DBS can deliver therapy differently to each side of the body which is vital in Parkinson’s because it is an asymmetrical disease,” Dr Costello said.

Mater Private Hospital Townsville Executive Officer Libbie Linley said thousands of North Queenslanders will benefit from the training Dr Costello has received.

“There’s about 3000 people in North Queensland with Parkinson’s disease,” Ms Linley said.

“To have access to DBS right here means patients no longer need to travel to Brisbane or interstate for the procedure, and they can feel confident of receiving the highest possible standard of care in Townsville.”

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