On 17 and 18 May 2016, a team of neurosurgeons headed by Prof. Wojciech Maksymowicz, dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of UWM, carried out 4 surgeries to implant brain stimulators in comatose patients. Those were the first surgeries of this kind in Europe. Among the operating surgeons was Prof. Isao Morita of the Department of Neurosurgery of the Fujita Health University – a neurosurgeon and electrostimulation specialist – with his two assistants. Prof. Morita taught the doctors in Olsztyn his novel method.
After 2 months, the doctors informed the media about the patients’ condition.
- We carried out a range of tests. They confirmed the patients’ increased reactivity. The patients follow things with their eyes, they carry out instructions – they squeeze items in their hands, they pay attention to what is happening. One of the female patients – her name is Sylwia – reacts with a smile to being told about events from her past. The muscle tension has decreased considerably, which makes rehabilitation and care easier – says Prof. Wojciech Maksymowicz, dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of UWM, who took part in the experimental surgeries.
Positive changes in the activity of the brain cortex in patients, who were operated on in May, have been confirmed by Tomasz Siwek MD, PhD, a neurologist, and by Agnieszka Rakowska, MSc, a neuro-speech therapist.
- Each of them communicates with people around them better, they are more willing to follow instructions – stressed Agnieszka Rakowska.
All four patients will undergo another series of tests in 4 months. Meanwhile, on 26 and 27 July, the doctors in Olsztyn carried out surgeries to implant stimulators in another 3 comatose patients. This time, they did it by themselves, without any help from the Japanese doctors. The surgery was carried out on 1 female and 2 male patients. They are all young people with cerebrospinal injuries suffered in road accidents.
- These are people after accidents, 20-45 years old. They met the main criterion, i.e. preserved reaction to stimuli. Like with the first group of patients, these are in good condition, too – adds Prof. Maksymowicz.
The operating team was headed by Prof. Wojciech Maksymowicz. The surgeries lasted 2.5 to 3 hours. They involved opening the spinal canal and inserting an electrode under the spinal cord dura mater. Current from a stimulator placed on the patient’s body flows to the electrode. The stimulator is connected to the electrode with a wire running under the skin.
- Regularly, the stimulator sends portions of current to the brain. This stimulation is supposed to increase the cerebral blood flow to improve nutrition of the surviving neurons. Increasing cerebral blood flow and brain stimulation is to facilitate establishing contact with people who until now were in a state of minimum consciousness.