OCD is a difficult disorder to treat. The disorder is associated with distressing obtrusive thoughts which so far have only been partially controlled with drug therapy. Well, there is something new now. Shock therapy, similar to one that is used to treat depression is now being used to treat certain patients with OCD. However, there is one major difference between this device and the device used to treat depression.
The latest devices made by Cyberonics and Medtronic’s are the size of a small pacemaker which is implanted in the body. The pacemaker does not cause seizures, but delivers stimulation to certain nerves that relieves the disturbing thoughts. The first Medtronic’s Reclaim Deep Brain Stimulator has just been approved for use on people with chronic OCD.
Even though there are millions of people who suffer from OCD, this device is only available for individuals with severe OCD who have failed drug therapy. At present, the Medtronic’s device is set to be inserted in less than 4,000 individuals per year.
But the question is, does this device work? Well, from the limited clinical studies, the device has relieved obtrusive thoughts in some individuals, but patients still need to continue taking medications.
Reclaim is not a cure for OCD but just another modality of treatment which is more invasive.
The device is about 3 x 3 cm, circular and has four electrodes running out of it. The device is implanted superficially in the chest wall and four electrodes are tunneled underneath the skin and implanted in the brain. The pacemaker is adjusted so signals are delivered to the brain and block abnormal brain thoughts.
Medtronic’s is currently designing devices for use in patients with depression. Additionally, similar devices have been used in the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease, but their results have been mediocre at best.
At present, Medtronic’s says that it will allow the device to be used free on a “humanitarian basis” (a better word is guinea pig). The aim is to get more patients fitted with the device and follow up them before more making the device available to the public at large.