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ABC'S 'Miracle Workers' Episode Documents OHSU Neurosurgeons Treating Parkinson's Patient

An upcoming episode of ABC Television Network's new reality show, "Miracle Workers," will highlight an Oregon Health & Science University neurological surgery team treating a Nevada woman with severe Parkinson's disease symptoms.

The episode will air at 10 p.m. Monday, March 27, on ABC affiliates KATU in Portland, KDRV in Medford and KEZI in Eugene.

In late October 2005, the team led by Kim Burchiel, M.D., chairman and professor of neurological surgery, OHSU School of Medicine, performed surgery on Charlene Lustig of Mesquite, Nev., to implant technology used in deep brain stimulation therapy to treat Lustig's severe, Parkinson's-associated tremors and other symptoms.

During deep brain stimulation, or DBS, a pacemaker-like device implanted under the skin near the chest sends electrical impulses through an insulated wire to two electrodes surgically implanted in the brain from the top of the skull. Stimulation blocks the signals that cause the disabling motor symptoms of Parkinson's.

The surgical technique for implanting the electrodes was pioneered at OHSU in 1991, and Burchiel's team now performs about 50 DBS operations each year. "These operations are unique in that the effects of DBS are testable and reversible," he said. "We can test each patient to determine if DBS will work for them. To a large degree, we are modulating the patient's own brain circuitry and reestablishing the system balance that is lost in conditions like Parkinson's disease. This is 'functional neurosurgery' - that is, neurosurgery with a goal of improving the patient's function."

Burchiel said that he hopes viewers of Monday's show come away with an understanding that "with modern medicine and surgery, there is hope for patients with severe and disabling conditions like Parkinson's disease."

Burchiel was assisted by a team of nurses, neurosurgeons, neurologists, radiologists, anesthesiologists, hospital administrators, clinic managers, transportation specialists and others to "assure that Charlene and her family received truly top-level care - the same top-level care delivered hundreds of times each and every day at OHSU," he said.

For information about the show, and to view a video clip of Lustig's audition tape for the show, visit ABC's "Miracle Workers" Web site at

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