Actor Michael J. Fox had holes drilled into his brain as part of his treatment for Parkinson’s Disease, according to one of his doctors.
Harvard Medical School neurologist Allan Ropper talked about the “highly successful” procedure during an interview with BBC’s Radio Five Live on Monday (January 12), admitting he “took a lot of heat for it, because it was not a conventional procedure.”
According to Ropper, author of the book, Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: A Renowned Neurologist Explains the Mystery and Drama of Brain Disease, the treatment purposely causes small strokes in the patient’s brain, which can “kill” tremors.
“We know from accidents by an ancient neurosurgeon, by which I mean 40 years ago, that small strokes in a particular part of the brain stop the tremor of Parkinson’s,” Ropper explained. “It was an accidental observation. After that, the Swedes began to make holes with little instruments in those places. That’s what we did. We made a little hole in the thalamus, killed the tremor, dead.”
Fox was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease in 1992 and went public with his diagnosis in 1998.
“Some people with Parkinson’s who start with a tremor and who are young at the onset, ironically, do extremely well in the long run,” Ropper told the BBC. “One would have thought the opposite, that if you’re young when you get it, you’ll be worse off.
In 2007, Straight contributor Rex Moore wrote an account of a similar experience he had. Also diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Moore underwent Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, during which electrodes were put into his brain while he was awake and later attached to a stimulator implanted in his chest. (“Trust me, you do not want to ever feel the vibrations of a drill digging deep into your soul or recall the smell from your smoking skull,” Moore wrote about the surgery.)
As Ropper noted in the BBC interview, “There are more modern techniques now which are stimulators, but as outlined in the book, Mr. Fox did not want the contraption.”