The World’s 1st Pediatric Robotic Brain Surgery Has Been Performed On An Oklahoma Girl

The world’s first pediatric patient to receive robotic deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an 8-year-old girl from Oklahoma. Oklahoma Children’s Hospital OU Health and Bethany Children’s Health Centre jointly announced this historic procedure, which has positive implications for the treatment of children with severe neurological problems.

Rapid-onset primary dystonia is a severe neurological movement disease that young pioneer Karleigh Fry has been facing. Due to the involuntary muscle spasms induced by this illness, Karleigh was initially paralyzed and unable to carry out even simple tasks like sitting up by herself or walking. She continued to experience involuntary movements, which often led to self-injury, even though she showed some improvement after taking several medications.

Seeking alternative treatments, Karleigh’s doctors selected her for DBS. Dr. Andrew Jea noted, “This marked the global debut of using a robot from our operating rooms to perform DBS in a child, setting a precedent not only in Oklahoma but also across the United States and worldwide.”

Deep brain stimulation is a high-tech surgical technique that involves implanting tiny cables, called electrodes or leads, in particular brain regions. These electrodes link to a small implanted device in the upper chest called a neurostimulator. By delivering electrical impulses to the brain, the neurostimulator aids in regulating abnormal signals linked to ailments like Tourette’s syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, these disorders include disordered electrical signals in the parts of the brain that control movement.

While DBS is not a cure, it can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life by reducing symptoms like tremors and involuntary movements by stopping these abnormal signals.

It is a revolutionary step forward to perform DBS treatments with robotics. According to OU Health, a robot improves “surgical precision and safety,” offering a more precise and regulated surgical procedure.

Karleigh’s surgery was conducted in two stages. Initially, the procedure occurred at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, followed by her transfer to Bethany Children’s Health Center for comprehensive post-operative care and pediatric rehabilitation. The results were remarkable. Minutes after activation, Karleigh showed significant improvement. OU Health reported that she could lower and relax her arms, a movement previously impossible. This improvement extended to her speech, which also showed signs of enhancement.

Trisha Fry, Karleigh’s mother, expressed her gratitude and relief. “Her arms used to lock up to the point we would put socks on her hands because she would scratch her neck,” she explained. “There’s been some improvements, even from the moment they turned it on. She is even using her voice a little bit more, and we can make out some of her words,” she added.

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