31 July 2023

Musician is back playing guitar for first time in years after brain implant eases Parkinson’s symptoms

 Parkinson's patient back playing guitar for first time time in years after "miracle" surgery

  • A musician who found it impossible to play the guitar following his Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis is hailing the improvements he has seen in his body movements after having deep brain stimulation surgery as a “miracle”
  • Phil Webster, 62, has regained his ability to play his guitar and write music – and can keep pace with this wife’s walking and hold her hand
  • Phil’s brain device contains a new novel feature that is able to capture continous patterns of his brain activity, allowing clinicians to see at-a-glance how medications and therapy can be optimised.

A singer songwriter who has lived with Parkinson’s for more than 19 years says he has been given his quality of his life back after neurosurgeons at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust implanted a brain stimulator attached to a small pacemaker-like device under his skin which also automatically records his brain activity.

Phil Webster, 62, who underwent deep brain stimulation surgery at the Hallamshire Hospital has described the improvements he has seen since his surgery in his body movements as a “miracle”.

In the 1990s, Phil was a regular fixture on the local music scene in West Yorkshire but his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in 2004 made it impossible for him to play to live audiences or play his guitar due to the involuntary movements and tremors he was suffering.

As the years went on, Phil’s symptoms worsened: “Before I underwent deep brain stimulation surgery I was falling daily, sometimes hourly. I smashed both my shoulders and had to have them replaced, I broke my neck, and in the last 16 months alone I broke my nose three times. Parkinson’s has been a burden.”

After hearing about a procedure called deep brain stimulation, he was referred to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital by his GP where an expert team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, neuroradiologists and specialist nurses first implanted very thin wires with electrodes at their tips deep inside his brain. These were then connected by wires that travel under the skin and down the neck to a tiny pulse stimulator device under the skin of the chest, which sends electrical signals to damaged areas of the brain.

A new, novel feature – which has previously not been available – was also added to the pulse stimulator device to capture signal data direct from Phil’s implanted leads.

This data, which is stored and can be played back on the physician’s tablet programmer, shows the continuous patterns of Phil’s brain activity, allowing clinicians to see at-a-glance how medications and therapy can be optimised. This allows patients who have had deep brain stimulation to have greater control of their symptoms as clinicians can see ways where supportive treatments, such as medications, can be reduced.

“The impact of the deep brain stimulation surgery has been incredible,” said Phil. “I can walk straight, regained my ability to play my guitar and write music, and my bodily movements are so much better. It’s been so rewarding to be able to keep up with my wife’s walking pace and to simply hold her hand while walking with the dogs. It’s been phenomenal. I am eternally grateful to all the nurses at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, the medical team and surgeon Mr Yianni for all they have done.”

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals is one of a handful of leading neurosurgical centres in the country to provide deep brain stimulation for patients with certain neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, dystonia and essential tremor.

Mr John Yianni, Consultant Neurosurgeon and Stereotactic Radiosurgeon at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, so we are delighted to hear that this specialist treatment has helped reduce some of the terrible effects of Phil’s condition. Deep brain stimulation is not new and not suitable for all patients and we have been providing the surgery here in Sheffield for over two decades.

"Advances in device technology now mean we are able to offer more personalised therapies which give us vital diagnostic information whereas previously we were only able to stimulate the brain without this to guide us.

"In Phil’s case this has made an immeasurable difference to the quality of his life and, together with the information accrued by the new novel technology captured from his device away from the hospital, we have been able to make adjustments to his therapy over a much shorter period of time than was previously possible.”

Patients undergoing deep brain stimulation at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals can find out more about the different types of battery-powered stimulators available to them by speaking with their clinician.



Go back
Rate this page: