Radio-Surgery May Offer New OCD Treatment Option

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Radio-surgery may now be an alternative treatment method for persons who have failed to get better after other forms of treatment for OCD, according to a new study.

The research has been undertaken by University of Pittsburgh scholars, who have used radio-surgery on three patients suffering from very severe (medically refractory) forms of the mental condition.

They have achieved very promising results.

Difficult Cases

There is of course further research necessitated, but it is believed by author of the study Dr Douglas Kondziolka that this is a means to provide a new treatment alternative in difficult cases.

A male and two females have been treated by them, in both cases the OCD was very severe with two of the patients scoring in the very high range (39 and 40) on the OCD scale. They had each taken numerous medications, but all three still had high symptom levels after this form of treatment. It was when none of the medication treatments on offer worked that the three moved to be treated via radio-surgery.

Gamma Knife

In radio-surgery a gamma knife is used delivering an intense beam containing radiation at the targeted area of the brain that is directly responsible for OCD symptoms. In this case the area is the anterior cingulated cortex.

Careful evaluation took place first before the procedure was enacted, the request for surgery of this nature had to be made by the individuals themselves, and it had to be the case that the individuals were at the higher end of the OCD scale in order to receive treatment. Also two psychiatrists had to recommend that this was the best means of treatment.

No Complications

On evaluation after the procedures it was determined that there were no complications evident. The scientists have only now published the report on the surgery types’ success, due to their determination to ensure there were no complications.

The surgery itself was performed more than four years ago. The patients having been reassessed over this period to ensure there were no long term complications.

Significant Improvement

It has been noted that of the three who underwent the surgery, all of them displayed significant functional improvements and a reduction in behaviours that OCD manifests. It was noted too that the improvements took some time to demonstrate themselves, the benefits of the surgery being realised only months after the surgery, with benefits peaking between two and four months after the conduction of the surgery.

Medication Still Needed

It was required that all of the patients needed to continue taking their medication in the wake of the surgery also, with one individual who stopped taking the medicine experiencing the symptoms worsen again.  Whilst this is all still in the preliminary stages, the results are suggesting that this is a credible treatment option for severe OCD cases.


It may not all be beneficial however, it should be noted by anyone with OCD looking to take this treatment option that the effects of the surgery are irreversible, and there is no adjustment time to stimulation levels. This means that the individual goes straight into a position of being affected by the operation directly after the going for the operation. Other forms of treatment do allow for a certain amount of time to develop an understanding in the body for what is going on i.e. with medications there is a lead in time before the effects of the medication are realised.

The lead author is adamant that there still needs to be wide reaching research carried out in order for radio-surgery to be widely recommended to OCD patients.

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