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Brain ‘miracles’ at Mater Dei Hospital

Tony Borg (right), who has spent 10 years living with Parkinson’s, was “reborn” after deep brain stimulation surgery. This procedure is being offered by neurosurgeon Ludvic Zrinzo (second from left) and neurologist Josanne Aquilina. Health Minister Joe Cassar is on the far left. Photo: Jason Borg

Tony Borg (right), who has spent 10 years living with Parkinson’s, was “reborn” after deep brain stimulation surgery. This procedure is being offered by neurosurgeon Ludvic Zrinzo (second from left) and neurologist Josanne Aquilina. Health Minister Joe Cassar is on the far left. Photo: Jason Borg

Fifteen “miracles” will have been carried out at Mater Dei Hospital by the end of this year as more patients undergo deep brain stimulation surgery.

The surgery is intended for patients with neurological disorders

Only one of the 10 patients who have undergone the procedure so far have ended up with an infection, meaning the pacemaker-like device implanted to send electrodes to their brain will have to be removed.

“But the procedure did not leave the patient worse off,” said consultant neurosurgeon Ludvic Zrinzo, who this week gave an update on the procedure and the way it was being conducted in Malta. The Maltese surgeon, who has carried out hundreds of such interventions in the UK, has helped Mater Dei set up and offer the procedure here.

Health Minister Joe Cassar praised Mr Zrinzo as an international leader in the field and said five patients would begin the procedure next week.

The surgery is intended for patients with neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, if their medication stops being effective.

It involves a €20,000 “neurostimulator” implanted behind a person’s chest.

“I was reborn,” said patient Tony Borg, who has spent 10 years living with Parkinson’s.

The surgery “miraculously” enabled him to start walking without the help of a stick, drive more comfortably and use his arms and hands functionally, in a way he was not able to do before.

“I still can’t shave,” he said with a laugh, but the procedure has dramatically improved his quality of life and that of his family.

It has also enabled him to work harder and spend less money on medication, meaning the expensive procedure was also cost-effective, according to Mr Zrinzo.

He is spearheading the surgery in Malta together with consultant neurologist Josanne Aquilina, who Mr Borg showered with praise for not treating her patients as files or numbers but as people.

Ms Aquilina said it was important for patients to be given all the information necessary regarding possible risks and side-effects to enable them to make an informed decision.

Mr Zrinzo, who praised the Maltese doctors and warned the minister that he was prepared to poach them for the UK, is conducting research on ways to diminish the risks and make the procedure less stressful on patients.

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