Woman Becomes First Alzheimer's Patient to Have Pacemaker Implanted in Her Brain

Posted on January 23, 2013

Kathy Sanford is the first Alzheimer's patient in the United States to have a pacemaker implanted in her brain. The pacemaker was implanted last October at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center during a five-hour surgery. She is the first of up to 10 patients who will be enrolled in an FDA-approved study to determine if using a brain pacemaker can improve cognitive and behavioral functioning in patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The study is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

The researchers say the deep brain stimulation implant is similar to a cardiac pacemaker device, with the exception that the pacemaker wires are implanted in the brain rather than the heart. The same technology is used to treat patients with movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

Dr. Ali Rezai, neurosurgeon and director of the neuroscience program at Wexner Medical Center, said in a statement, "If the early findings that we're seeing continue to be robust and progressive, then I think that will be very promising and encouraging for us. But so far we are cautiously optimistic."

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