Experimental Surgery Zaps Tourette's Tics

So Matovic approached doctors at the University Hospitals. The only problem was that deep brain stimulation had never been used before on a Tourette patient in the United States. "When Jeff came to see us for the first time — it wasn't clear really that we knew what the target should be for Tourette," Maddux said.

"We pored over what we could do, what we couldn't do — what I could promise and what I couldn't promise," said Dr. Robert Maciunas, a neurosurgeon at the hospital.

A Groundbreaking Experiment

The team in Cleveland agreed to try this groundbreaking experiment on Matovic, knowing there were no guarantees. This past February, using a sophisticated system for mapping the brain, surgeons precisely inserted the electrodes, and later attached them to the pacemakers, hoping it would fix the impulses causing his tics.

But the big question was — would it work? It did. Matovic can walk easily down a hallway, and the sentence, "It's a sunny day in Cleveland," is no longer a problem for him to say. The arm motions are under control. Even his doctors were stunned at the operation's success.

"We were basically dragging our jaws on the floor," Maddux said.

The procedure had been tried three times in Cleveland, and the results have been good, but those surgeries were only done a few years ago, so no one really knows how effective it is over the long term. Still, doctors in Cleveland are hopeful because of the success of DBS in treating other movement disorders.

In addition to the surprise over the operation's success, there were plenty of tears.

"We were all just crying — everyone's mouth dropped — Dr. Maddox's mouth just hit the floor," Jeff Matovic said. "Nobody expected this result, especially this quickly."

"I was like, 'This isn't real, I'm dreaming, this isn't real,' and he came up and put a big old hug around me and it was real," Debra Matovic said. "I didn't feel him shaking or quivering or anything like that." Hands that once couldn't hold a glass will be holding a brand new baby in eight months. Debra just found out she is pregnant.

"I'm looking forward to this with open arms and open heart — to be able to bring a child into this world and really just be a part of it like I've always envisioned," Matovic said.

Unlike Matovic, whose problems are primarily physical, many Tourette patients suffer physical, neurological and psychological problems as well. The Cleveland team said the procedure would only work for that segment of Tourette patients who have primarily physical symptoms — but that could still offer hope to many thousands of people. And although he is the country's first Tourette patient to get this procedure, Matovic is hoping he won't be the last.

"There is hope," he said. "The results that I have seen — the feelings that I have felt — they're out there for other people too."

For more on the University Hospitals of Cleveland, go to www.uhhs.com.To find out more about Tourette syndrome, go to the National Tourette Syndrome Association's web site at www.tsa-usa.org/.

Thea Trachtenberg produced this story for Good Morning America.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...