Parkinson’s Disease

The specialists at the Indiana University Health Neuroscience Center have particular expertise in Parkinson's disease, providing comprehensive evaluation and exceptional treatment. Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder that progresses slowly and includes symptoms such as poor dexterity, tremor, soft speech and difficulty with walking, movement and coordination. It affects men and women and is characterized by a combination of four major symptoms: shaking with limbs at rest, slowness of movement, rigidity of the limbs or trunk and poor balance.

Designated as a Center for Care by the National Parkinson Foundation, we provide the highest level of care for patients with this disorder. People from across the country seek our advanced treatments and specialized expertise. Teams of Indiana University Health neurologists and neurosurgeons work together to provide individualized care. Using sophisticated diagnostic testing, the most innovative treatments, and various education and support services, we help people who have Parkinson’s disease manage their condition so they can more fully enjoy life.

Our doctors are experts at diagnosing Parkinson’s disease. To confirm the disorder, they rely on patient history and a complete physical and neurological exam. Neurodiagnostic and laboratory testing may also be used to diagnose the disease.

The sooner a person with Parkinson’s disease receives the correct diagnosis, the better. Treatment is more likely to control symptoms if care begins early. That is why prompt, accurate diagnosis is important. Because IU Health Neuroscience Center doctors have vast experience in treating movement disorders, they have the clinical knowledge to identify signs and symptoms.

There is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms through medicine or, in some cases, surgery. The IU Health Neuroscience Center offers the full range of the most innovative treatments, and our highly skilled doctors recommend the best therapy for each person.

Treatments

The IU Health Neuroscience Center provides the following treatment options for Parkinson's disease:

  • Medicines. Medicines control symptoms, mostly by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain. At certain points during the day, the helpful effects of the medicine may wear off and symptoms can return. If this happens, your doctor may need to adjust the type of medicine, the dose, the amount of time between doses or how the medicine is taken.
  • Botulism Injections. Our specialists use botulism toxin injections to give patients effective, temporary relief from severe muscle spasms and contractions. When it is injected directly into a person’s muscle, the botulism toxin blocks neurotransmitter messages and helps reduce and eliminate muscle spasms. Each treatment provides relief for about three to four months.
  • Surgery. For some patients with Parkinson’s disease, surgery may be an option. These surgeries do not cure the disorder but can help ease symptoms. Neurosurgeons at the IU Health Neuroscience Center perform two procedures: deep brain stimulation, which brings electrical stimulus to areas of the brain that control movement, and ablative surgery, which destroys brain tissues that cause Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS). In deep brain stimulation, doctors place electrodes deep in the brain; they are connected to a pacemaker-like device implanted under the skin near the collarbone. The device sends regular electrical impulses to target areas of the brain to correct excessive or misguided signals. IU Health Neuroscience Center neurosurgeons have performed DBS for more than 15 years, and the center is Indiana’s largest, most comprehensive DBS program.
  • Ablative surgery. In ablative surgery, our neurosurgeons use electrical charges to damage a tiny section of the brain. Using sophisticated, 3D brain mapping and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), our experienced neurosurgeons can identify the exact area of the brain that causes abnormal movements. Then, with exact precision, they apply a small charge directly to that exact portion of the brain via electrodes. The charge interrupts electrical currents within that section of the brain. Once that part of the brain cannot send messages, abnormal movements are more controlled.

Parkinson's Disease Clinic

The IU Health Neuroscience Center offers a dedicated clinic for people who have Parkinson’s disease. It is staffed by neurologists, neurosurgeons, researchers and nurses specializing in movement disorders. People can learn about the latest treatment options, participate in clinical trials and join a Parkinson’s disease support group.