Prescribing Brain Surgery for Depression

January 14, 2014

Brain Surgery for Depression

Depression is a condition that is sometimes impossible to fully cure, and it can be quite difficult to manage. Some individuals are very treatment-resistant; among patients with depression, it has been reported that 10-20% of them will not get better with standard therapy/medications treatments.

With a rate of failure reaching into the 20th percentile, the scientists are looking for ways to help improve the quality of life for those individuals who are treatment-resistant. This has led to a procedure that involves surgery on the brain. Medical researchers from the University of Toronto reported the surgery on the brain as having a 60% rate of success, and it is considered the equivalent of a process that is used to treat Parkinson’s disease. The procedure is known as DBS, or deep brain stimulation, and it targets the area of the brain that stimulates neural activity. The surgery involves drilling into the brain and placing the equivalent of a pacemaker within (this allows electrodes to be activated in the given area of the brain). The stimulation is meant to cause relief and tame negative feelings. The surgery is done while the patient is conscious to make sure that no brain damage is being inflicted during the procedure.

While in theory the success rate is fair, the surgery is something that will likely have quite a bit of controversy towards it. People who have suffered with severe depression for all of their lives may be at a point where they are willing to try anything, but people who are still confident in being able to handle the condition on their own may feel the idea of surgery as extreme and unnecessary. For the individual that has given up hope on their condition, this may very well be a viable option, but otherwise the idea of surgery is something the typical individual wants to avoid. The idea of someone drilling into the skull and stimulating areas with electric current isn’t something that should be viewed with a sense of calm; it usually generates an awkward and fearful emotion.

While the process itself has been proven to help up to 60% of the individuals, it is likely going to be something that takes time to be accepted.  This is on account of the sensitivity held toward surgery and processes of such severe nature in general. An individual being treated for depression is going to be in a position of wanting to feel control; they want to believe they are doing all they can to beat this mental ailment. When an individual is led to take the approach of surgery, the moment can be defined as a moment when all internal hope has been abandoned, and they simply want to see if a possible resolution exists for them.

Surgery may have complications and side effects, and for that reason, it is a solution that unfortunately has a lot of discomfort surrounding it. Surgery and the concept of uncomfortable doubt tend to be two ideas that go together. While improving the feelings that coordinate with depression are showing positive strides from the perspective of numbers, it’s hard to sell many people to the idea of complex surgery.  The important thing to consider is that if the surgical approach continues to deliver positive outcomes, the feeling of it becoming a more acceptable solution will develop on its own time. The important thing to consider is that if the surgical process is delivering results that an individual was otherwise unable to acquire, then the amount of good that is coming out of it will lead it to being viewed in a more positive light over time.

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