Cutting-Edge Technology Leads to Stimulating Results

The Joseph E. Robert, Jr., Center for Surgical Care at Children’s National is home to one of only two Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) pediatric programs in the country. Led by world-renowned physician Dr. Chima Oluigbo, this surgical treatment enables children with movement disorders such as cerebral palsy and dystonia to gain more control over their bodies. From the success of the Monte Carlo Night fundraising initiative, the Operating Room (OR) Advanced Technology Fund provided the cutting-edge equipment needed for the complex procedure. Dr. Oluigbo and his team precisely place electrodes in locations of the brain no larger than a pin point. These electrodes, similar to a pacemaker, transmit electrical impulses to areas linked to movement disorders. The treatment provides relief for symptoms such as tremors, rigidity, slowness of movement, and stiffness that do not improve with medication. 

The impact of this state-of-the-art treatment was felt immediately. A 6-year-old boy with dystonia so severe that his body curved like a “C,” was one of the first patients to undergo the procedure. Six weeks later, he gained the ability to sit straight and to control his hands and legs. He was also able to smile, an improvement that brought particular joy to his parents. Another former patient, RJ, 23 years old, has had severe dystonia on his right side since he was 6 months old. It wasn’t until DBS came to Children’s National two years ago that RJ had knowledge of and access to the procedure. RJ is the first recipient of DBS at Children’s National, and is hopeful for what lies ahead. “It helps me to feel loose,” said RJ, acknowledging the benefits of DBS and the work of Dr. Oluigbo. “I feel good everywhere and I’m growing muscle, getting stronger. My right side is getting bigger and I can walk easier. I get better and better through your hard work.” As a leader in his field, Dr. Oluigbo feels that his drive to expand the DBS treatment is motivated by his drive to make a long-lasting difference in the quality of life for children. “I’ve always wanted to work with children because you have the opportunity to make an impact over the course of their entire lifespan,” he says. “I asked myself how I could best go about improving the quality of life of children with seizures, movement disorders, cerebral palsy, and other similar disorders, and that’s how I got into functional neurosurgery. Being in this position at Children’s National allows me to combine my interests and apply my knowledge and skill set to help children.”  

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