A team of physicians at Allegheny Health Network (AHN) today announced the launch of an important pilot study exploring the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy to treat opioid addiction.
PITTSBURGH, June 13, 2022 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- A team of physicians at Allegheny Health Network (AHN) today announced the launch of an important pilot study exploring the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy to treat opioid addiction. In collaboration with Mark Fuller MD, executive director of the AHN Center for Recovery Medicine, the study has been designed by Nestor Tomycz, MD, director of stereotactic and functional neurosurgery at AHN, and will enroll three patients with refractory opioid use disorder (OUD).
Opioid misuse remains one of the nation's leading public health problems, killing tens of thousands of people each year, and causing more than 100,000 deaths over a recent 12-month period according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"In the last decade, drug addiction, and opioid abuse in particular, has stolen far too many lives, shattering families and putting enormous strain on communities and our health care system," said Dr. Fuller. "We need additional solutions and resources to help turn the tide of this deadly crisis, and that's why we are exploring the potential of a pioneering capability like DBS for those patients who fail conventional treatments."
DBS for opioid use disorder involves implanting bilateral brain electrodes into an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. The electrodes are powered by a pacemaker-like device implanted near the patient's collarbone.
"Drug addiction is a disease that leads to changes in how the brain is wired, particularly the nucleus accumbens. This small structure in the brain has been strongly associated with cravings for various drugs and is believed to be responsible for drug relapse even after prolonged periods of abstinence," said Dr. Tomycz. "Stimulating this structure with mild electrical pulses via DBS has been shown in a small case series to reduce cravings and the chance of drug relapse, and we are among a few centers in the United States further advancing the study of this treatment."
DBS has become a well-established treatment for movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, and under the leadership of Donald Whiting MD, Chair of AHN's Neuroscience Institute and AHN's Chief Medical Officer, Allegheny General Hospital has become a top national center for DBS treatment and research. Drs. Whiting and Tomcyz are also among a handful of U.S. medical teams assessing the efficacy of DBS for the treatment of obesity and Alzheimer's disease.
"DBS has proven to be one of the great breakthroughs in the treatment of neurological disease over the past couple of decades, providing life changing relief from debilitating conditions for thousands of people," said Dr. Whiting. "As we continue to learn more about areas of the brain and brain mechanisms connected to specific diseases, the possibility of targeting those structures and processes via DBS is something we are intently focused on in our Institute."
By stimulating the nucleus accumbens, DBS is believed to prompt the release of natural dopamine, reducing cravings, improving decision making, and curbing impulsivity. Some evidence also suggests the treatment may reverse physical changes to the brain caused by years of drug use.
"Rather than cure addiction, DBS may enable us to rewire the brain to allow the individual to respond better to traditional treatments along their journey to recovery," Dr. Fuller explained. "But it's important to underscore that DBS is not yet a proven treatment for addiction. We are in the early stages of research that will determine its efficacy."
To qualify for AHN's FDA-approved trial, patients must be 18 years or older, must be diagnosed with opioid use disorder, and must have suffered multiple opioid use relapses, despite standard addiction medicine treatments.
Those interested in learning more about AHN's study of DBS for opioid use disorder can call the study coordinator Miranda Nadeo at (412) 359-4604 or email: [email protected]. Prospective candidates will be evaluated by Dr. Fuller.
About the Allegheny Health Network:
Allegheny Health Network (AHN.org) is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the greater Western Pennsylvania region. The Network is composed of 14 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, Health + Wellness Pavilions, an employed physician organization, home and community based health services, a research institute, and a group purchasing organization. The Network provides patients with access to a complete spectrum of advanced medical services, including nationally recognized programs for primary and emergency care, trauma care, cardiovascular disease, organ transplantation, cancer care, orthopedic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, women's health, diabetes, autoimmune disease and more. AHN employs approximately 21,000 people, has more than 2,500 physicians on its medical staff and serves as a clinical campus for Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.
JoAnne Clobus, Allegheny Health Network, 724-651-3205, [email protected]
SOURCE Allegheny Health Network