Fletcher Allen, a Vermont university hospital and medical center, serves all of
Vermont and the northern New York region. Located in Burlington, Fletcher Allen is a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont.
Parkinson's Disease Treatments
At Fletcher Allen, we provide the most recent, research-based treatments and therapies for Parkinson’s disease. We are committed to a personal approach and work closely with you and your family to answer all your questions. We want to make sure you, and your family, have all the information you need to make the best decisions.
Advanced Treatment, Advanced Expertise
Treatment for neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s involves many different types of doctors specially trained in diagnosing, evaluating and treating this disease. At Fletcher Allen you have access to highly specialized care provided by these "sub-specialists." Sub-specialists are physicians with advanced training and expertise in a particular area, and are typically found only at a tertiary, or advanced-level care centers like Fletcher Allen – the only center of this kind in Vermont.
The sub-specialists involved in the care of Parkinson’s disease at Fletcher Allen are:
- Neurologists who specialize in movement disorders – Neurologists are physicians with advanced training in treating disorders of the brain and nervous system. Many neurologists also have additional training or interest in one area of neurology, such as stroke, epilepsy, neuromuscular, sleep medicine, or movement disorders. At Fletcher Allen, neurologists who care for Parkinson’s patients have additional expertise in movement disorders and Parkinson’s disease.
- Neurosurgeons – Surgeons with advanced training in operating on the brain and nervous system. Neurosurgeons treat diseases and conditions affecting the brain, spine and spinal cord and the peripheral nerves – the nerves located outside the brain and spinal cord. They provide non-surgical and surgical therapies.
- Neuroradiologists – Radiologists, or imaging specialists, with advanced training in neurology and imaging the brain. They are highly trained physicians who are critical members of the care team for patients with neurological disorders. They prescribe and conduct tests to assess patients’ neurological symptoms.
Modifications such as healthy eating and nutrition, walking carefully and following tips to avoid falls, may make a difference in your quality of life.
Physical therapy and exercise may also be helpful to maintain function and movement for some patients.
Licensed physical therapists with Fletcher Allen’s rehabilitative therapy services are available can help you improve mobility, range of motion and muscle tone – as well as gait and balance. Our physical therapists are committed to helping patients regain their maximum level of function and independence medically, vocationally and socially.
In addition, Fletcher Allen speech language pathologists provide special assistance for Parkinson’s patients, working to improve speech and swallowing problems.
Many Parkinson’s disease patients take medications to lessen their symptoms and help improve walking, movement and tremor caused by the disease. These drugs can help restore the balance of chemicals in the brain.
At Fletcher Allen, we offer the full range of medical therapies and the latest pharmaceutical products available. We work closely with you to develop an individual treatment plan that meets your needs.
The following medications may be prescribed for Parkinson’s disease:
Levodopa – A primary Parkinson’s drug that is known to be the most effective for Parkinson’s therapy. It is a natural substance that when taken by mouth, travels into the brain and converts into dopamine.
Dopamine agonists – Drugs that mimic the role of dopamine in the brain. They cause neurons to react as they would if dopamine were present. They are not as effective as levodopa, and may be prescribed with levodopa.
MAO B inhibitors – These medications include selegiline (Eldepryl) and rasagiline (Azilect). They slow down the activity of an enzyme that metabolizes dopamine in the brain, and thus can prevent the breakdown of dopamine.
COMT inhibitors – This class of drugs includes Tolcapone (Tasmar) and Entacapone (Comtan). They are used to help prolong the effectiveness of levodopa.
Anticholinergics – These drugs include medications such as trihexyphenidyl and benztropine (Cogentin) that are used to control tremors and muscle stiffness.
Antivirals – These drugs, which include amantadine (Symmetrel), can provide short-term relief of Parkinson’s in its early stages. They can also be prescribed along with levodopa in the later stages of the disease.
If medications and other therapies are not effective, and you have an advanced form of Parkinson’s disease, surgery may be recommended to treat your condition.
Fletcher Allen neurosurgeons provide comprehensive surgical care for movement disorders such as Parkinson’s. We work closely with a team of neurologists, neuroradiologists and other professionals to provide the best possible care for patients.
We are dedicated to personalized, patient-centered care, working closely with you and your family to make sure you receive the treatment that is right for you.
Patients at Fletcher Allen benefit from access to the most recent technological advances, modern equipment and facilities. As a university hospital, you can also be assured of working with physicians with years of experience, who are at the frontier of new developments in Parkinson’s care.
Deep Brain Stimulation – This is the most common surgical procedure for treating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Fletcher Allen neurosurgeons implant small electrodes in the parts of the brain that control movement. MRI imaging and advanced neurophysiological mapping are used to help guide the electrode to the correct location in the brain.
Once in place, the electrode is connected by a small wire to a pacemaker-like device placed under the skin near the collarbone. The device controls the amount of stimulation the electrode delivers. The stimulation can help reduce involuntary movements and is especially effective in controlling tremor.