Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center

Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease at Saint Barnabas Medical CenterAt the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, our team is skilled in providing leading-edge therapies including deep brain stimulation surgery. We specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and other movement disorders. Our multidisciplinary approach brings specialists in movement disorders, neurosurgery, psychiatry, rehabilitation and social work together to ensure you receive the most comprehensive care possible.

Movement Disorders we treat:

  • Atypical Parkinsonism (uncommon forms of Parkinson’s disease)
  • Tremor
  • Dystonia
  • Gait dysfunction
  • Tics and Tourette Syndrome
  • Huntington’s disease

What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder, affecting about one percent of the population over the age of 60 years. Parkinson’s disease is twice as common in men as in women in most populations. It is a chronic, progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually and can commonly cause tremor, stiffness, and slowness of movement. The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease worsen as the condition progresses over time. Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, medications and deep brain stimulation surgery may markedly improve the symptoms.

Diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease

The signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary from one individual to the next. Symptoms usually start on one side of the body but eventually affect both sides.

Common motor symptoms or “cardinal features” of PD:

  • Tremor – commonly occurs at rest in one hand
  • Slowness – not swinging one or both arms when walking, smaller steps, feet feel like they are “glued” to the floor
  • Stiff or rigid muscles – similar to cramping
  • Stooped posture
  • Smaller handwriting, softer voice, face becomes less expressive

There are also a variety of “non-motor” symptoms which may occur years or even decades before a motor symptom and may include the following:

  • Sleep disturbances – insomnia, daytime fatigue, restless leg syndrome, cramps, vivid dreams or nightmares, difficulty turning over in bed
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Constipation and frequent urination, drooling at night
  • Depression and anxiety

Usually, the diagnosis can be made based on the clinical features and examination by an experienced clinician. A diagnostic test, DaTscan (dopamine transporter scan), can be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. Although PD is a progressive disease, it does not significantly alter life expectancy.

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

PD is caused by the gradual loss of a chemical in the brain called dopamine. Symptoms usually do not start until the loss of about 60 percent of dopamine. It is the deficiency of dopamine that triggers many of the signs and symptoms PD patients experience.

Treatment For Parkinson’s Disease

Patients benefit from an integrated approach to care. At Saint Barnabas Medical Center, individuals with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease or other movement disorder are evaluated by movement disorder specialist, Arash Fazl, MD, PhD., a Barnabas Health Medical Group provider. Although there is no known cure for Parkinson’s, there are various avenues of treatment. Medical management is the foundation of movement disorder care. There are a variety of medications available to help provide symptomatic relief, especially in the early stages of the disease. Additionally, there are a large number of ongoing clinical trials which include disease modifying agents that can slow, stop or reverse the progression of the disease.

Saint Barnabas Medical Center also offers deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery. DBS is an established treatment reserved for individuals who are unable to control their disease with medication alone. Dr. Fazl partners with neurosurgeon Paul Gigante, MD, to offer deep-brain stimulation to his patients.

For Parkinson’s Disease Patients Going to the Hospital

Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease must take medications on their schedule—not according to hospital routine or convenience. If they do not receive medications on their specific timetable, they may experience breakthrough symptoms. In consultation with medical experts and the medical center’s Parkinson’s Disease Patient Family Advisory Council, Saint Barnabas Medical Center offers the following tips for Parkinson’s Disease patients who go to the ER or are admitted to the hospital:

  • Bring a list of all medications including dosages and specific times you take them.
  • Bring contact information for the neurologist or movement specialist who is treating your Parkinson’s.
  • If possible, pack Parkinson’s medications in the original packaging for use if they are not available in the hospital pharmacy.
  • Verbalize or have a list of key symptoms you experience when medications are wearing off, so the staff is fully aware of what to look out for when doing assessments.
  • Bring an emergency contact list, your contact information and, if applicable, a health care proxy card or living will.
  • Ensure physical therapy is ordered during a hospital stay to prevent muscle de-conditioning.
  • Don’t hesitate to advocate for yourself.

For more information, or to make an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 973-322-7023.