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25 Feb 2024, Edition - 3148, Sunday

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A simple brain surgery can de-addict an alcoholic

Covai Post Network


At a time when closure of a number of TASMAC outlets is not bringing down alcohol consumption in the State, Kovai Medical Centre and Hospital has come up with a surgical de-addiction treatment.

The surgery called deep brain simulation, a treatment done in advanced cases of Parkinson’s disease and in some cases of epilepsy, was done for the first time in the country to treat a chronic alcoholic. A small electrode is placed in the brain and connected to pace maker, which will stop the patient’s craving for alcohol, according to hospital officials.

Arumugam (name changed), a 55-year-old businessman from Sathyamangalam was a chronic alcoholic. In 2013, he patient visited Dr V Arul Selvan, consultant neurologist at KMCH to get treated for alcohol abuse. He was put on de-addiction counseling under consultant psychiatrist Dr G Srinivasan. Though he had attempted de-addiction counseling sessions at various centres, the results were not there and he failed to go ahead with counseling.

In 2017, he revisited Dr Arul and by then his condition had deteriorated. “The patient had shivering hands, memory loss and loss of sensation in hands and legs,” said Dr Arul.

That was when the surgery was suggested. Neuro surgery specialist Dr D Ganesan says the treatment has been in practice in the US since 2009, and this is the first time it was done in India.

“Two electrodes of 1.5 cm length are inserted in the nucleus accumbence in the deep parts of the brain near thalamus. They are connected to a pace maker and will produce electric signals which will produce a chemical called serotonin, that will stop carving for alcohol,” said Dr Ganeshan.

The surgery costs around Rs 10 lakh and can also be used to cure other forms of addiction. The high price of the pace maker was cited as a reason for this cost.

Dr Srinivasan said the surgery should be opted only as a last resort. “There are three stages in chronic alcohol disease and addiction is the last stage. The surgery has to be done only if all attempts of de-addiction fail,” he added. The pace maker has a five-year span and during this period the patient would have no carving for alcohol.

“The counseling sessions will continue even after surgery and after five years, the need to replace the abtteries in pace maker will be less because within five years the person will be de-addicted,” said the doctor.

KMCH Chairman Nalla Palanisami told mediapersons, ”Chronic alcoholism is a disease and I’m glad that the treatment has helped the patient come out of addiction. It has been a month since the surgery was done and the patient is doing completely fine now.”

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