(HealthDay News) – Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the of subthalamic nucleus (STN) seems to have a beneficial effect on driving ability in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD), according to a study published online Dec. 18 in Neurology.

Carsten Buhmann, MD, from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, and colleagues used a driving simulator proven to reflect on-road driving to evaluate the influence of STN DBS on driving in patients with PD. Comparisons of driving performance were made between 23 patients with deep brain surgery (DBS patients), 21 patients without surgery (no-DBS patients), and 21 controls.

The researchers found that age and cognitive deficits negatively influenced driving performance. In measuring driving time and driving errors, the no-DBS patient group performed worse than controls. DBS patients drove slower than controls and no-DBS patients, and driving safety was comparable to controls but better than in no-DBS patients. Driving was more accurate with “stimulation on” (STIM) than with “stimulation off/levodopa” (LD) (dosage aimed at maintaining motor status) within the DBS group, although motor effects did not differ. Driving with STIM, but not with LD, was superior to driving in the “stimulation off” condition.

“Our data suggest that driving permission for DBS-treated patients with PD should not be handled more restrictively than permissions for patients with PD in general,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the medical device and pharmaceutical industries.

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