Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is a therapy that is rapidly gaining a reputation as an effective treatment for patients who have suffered a recent stroke. However, a new case study submitted by American researchers indicates that rTMS can help patients who experienced their strokes years ago. The study documented positive results of rTMS for a patient who suffered a cerebellar stroke five years before the study.
This case study only involves one patient. So clearly, more research is needed. However, it does indicate that rTMS may be able to help patients in the chronic phase of rehab. This is non-invasive treatment. A trained technician holds an appliance near a patient’s head to stimulate areas of the brain magnetically. It has relatively few side effects.
The case study of rTMS
The case study involves a 64-year-old American man who had a stroke at age 59. The patient also has Parkinson’s disease, which manifested before the stroke. As a result of the stroke and its complications, doctor’s removed the left side of the patient’s cerebellum. The cerebellum is an area behind and below the main structure of the brain. It plays an important part in movement, equilibrium, posture, and motor learning. It is also thought to play a role in thinking and emotional stability.
Five years after the stroke, the patient was using a wheelchair because of difficulties with coordination, fine motor movements, spasticity, and balance. The patient also had problems speaking.
Effects of rTMS
In an effort to help the patient, clinicians at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus arranged for a two-week course of rTMS focused on the patient’s remaining right cerebellum. They tested his fine and gross motor skills and his thinking, memory, and language skills (cognition) before and after the treatment. The test results showed improvements in seated balance, verbal fluency, and memory. The patient also reported improved sensitivity to touch on the right side of his face and body and the bottom of his right foot. And the patient’s caregiver said that getting him into and out of his wheelchair had become easier. The caregiver also noted his scanning speech (a speech problem common in patients with cerebellum damage) improved.
Based on these results, the researchers concluded that magnetic stimulation of the healthy parts of a patient’s brain can result in noticeable symptom reduction. These improvements could have resulted from rTMS improving the patient’s Parkinson’s symptoms rather than his stroke symptoms. However, the treatment did target the stroke-affected area of the brain. This fact indicates that the stroke symptoms were indeed the ones being helped.
What this means for you
If you are unhappy with your current rehab results, talk to your doctor about rTMS. No matter how long ago your stroke occurred, this could offer hope.
The first author of the original article was Isabelle Buard, Department of Neurology, University of Colorado-Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO, USA.