Parkinson’s disease: Surgical options

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The introduction of levodopa revolutionized the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. However, complications of therapy that diminish functional capacity eventually develop in the majority of patients. Studies in animal models have demonstrated that the parkinsonian state is associated with overactivity in the output nuclei of the basal ganglia. This provides a rationale for surgically targeting these nuclei to diminish this overactivity and reestablish a more balanced output (compensatory strategy). Lesioning and high-frequency stimulation of either the pallidum or the subthalamic nuclei are effective, but many questions remain regarding what surgery is best. Even more questions remain regarding the place of a restorative strategy, namely implantation of fetal midbrain tissue to replace the missing dopamine cells and "cure" the disease. Practical, ethical, and legal issues that complicate the use of human tissue have encouraged initial attempts at xenotransplantation using porcine fetal tissue.