It’s not brain surgery


Surely, it can’t be that hard….after all, it’s not brain surgery!

Errr….well…actually…this time it is brain surgery. And it’s coming to your house, live and in full technicolour glory. And while it may not command your attention like a riveting drama or an hilarious sitcom, you couldn’t accuse this reality show of not being a true reflection of reality!

Later this month (October 25 at 9pm EST to be precise) National Geographic Television will air a two hour long episode featuring a live brain surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). For many with Parkinson’s Disease, DBS is seen as a viable – if not essential – surgical procedure to treat their condition.

In brief, DBS is a procedure that targets ares of the brain that control movement in the body. Two holes are drilled into the skull and into the brain, where two electrodes are then inserted and strategicaly positioned. Wires to the electrodes are run through the back of the head and out to the front of the chest where they are connected to a surgically implanted battery

According to the shows sponsors (National Geographic Channel and Mental Floss), this program will “take viewers into a cutting-edge operating room during a DBS surgery…where the brain is operated on while the patient is fully awake and able to speak with the neurosurgeons and neurologists. Because the patient is awake, the neurologists know where to target electrodes and then put the patient through a series of tests to determine whether or not they’ve pinpointed the affected area of the brain. The patient will be identified closer to the live taping…we’re giving viewers the chance to share in a life-changing medical experience, as it is happening, to highlight the extraordinary talent and commitment of a renowned medical team and institution, and to illuminate the wonders and complexities of the human brain.”

From the perspective of the participating hospital (University Hospitals Case Medical Centre, Cleveland Ohio), there is the expressed hope that “…this live broadcast of a deep brain stimulation surgery will educate viewers and offer a comprehensive look at this cutting-edge surgery”. Within the hospital’s high-tech operating room, “production will furnish two manned, handheld cameras in the operating room, as well as several robotic cameras with inputs directly into the doctors’ surgical equipment. As a result, throughout the live broadcast, viewers will see EXACTLY what the neurosurgery team is seeing: up-close, live images of the brain as it is being operated on in real time”.

Reading about this program, it certainly strikes me as being “must-watch TV” for people with Parkinson’s who are considering such a procedure, as well as those whose lives have been touched by someone with PD. Personally, my Neurologists have, on several occasions, encouraged me to have DBS surgery. I even went through the lengthy testing and review to qualify for the procedure but, in the end, and at least for the time being, I have decided not to pursue this as an option. Again, for me personally, I feel it is too invasive a procedure to warrant what benefits it would provide for my condition. Still, I’ll likely be glued to my set for this one!

Update: Just released: Info on the patient having this surgery can be found here.


2 thoughts on “It’s not brain surgery”

  1. Hi Rob,

    Was very Interested in your piece on DBS and the upcoming show on Nat Geo of live surgery showing the operation.

    I live in Australia and we do get the Nat Geo channel here but I cannot find out whether it will be shown here. By chance would you know whether it will be shown outside North America or will it be available at some later date via utube or webinair or the like?

    I am living with Parkinson’s and have been told to consider DBS, but like you have decided to put it on the back burner!

    I enjoy reading your blogs and can relate and sympathise with a lot of what you say.

    Hoping you can help me


    Penny Ward Hobart, Australia


    1. hi penny. thx for reading the blog and for your kind comments. I’m glad you found it! AS for the show, I believe the release I read said it will be shown in something like 48 countries so I would think there is a chance. Im in the same boat as you as I was reading a US release and I’m in Canada and programs do not always align bet ween our two countries. I’m hoping it will. As the date draws closer, if I do se anything more specific to other countries, Ill let you, and others, know. Thanks again! all good things, rk


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