Monday, January 27, 2014

Rechargeable or Not? Trying to Decide

When I had my DBS surgery in October 2012, I had a choice of either a regular Activa PC generator (the thing in my chest that controls the leads in my brain) that would last from 3-5 years or I could choose the rechargeable Activa RC with a 9-year lifespan, but it would require me to charge it up on a daily/weekly basis. 
Rechargeable on left, regular on right

I knew lots of people who had the regular one and most were getting it replaced every 2-3 years. I only knew one person with the rechargeable and she said the charging equipment was sort of bulky. Dr Norton, my neurosurgeon recommended the regular one. He said you will get the newest technology with each replacement. So, I took his advice.  

Well, here it is SIX and a half years later and I will soon be facing this decision again. If I were to have replacement surgery today, I'd be getting the same technology that was available back then. As of today, there's nothing new for the patient from Medtronic, except the 9-year rechargeable lifespan has been increased to 15-years. I am told, however, that a new charging system, a new patient programmer and even a new regular generator will be coming to market soon. How soon? Your guess is as good as mine.

Can I wait? Maybe. 

While I wait and check my current battery status (2.57v) on a daily basis, I keep weighing the pros and cons of my choices.

The advantage of a regular unit like mine is you just forget about it for about 3 years and then you get a new one. Mine is over 6.5 years old, so mine lasted way longer than the average. There's no guarantee the next one will last that long.

The disadvantage, for someone as thin as I am, is that it really sticks out. 

This is my DBS IPG 

I am not a very vain person and just the fact that it shows doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that one top corner. 

IPG is sticking out 
Do you see how the skin is really tight in that one area? I worry that it may break through my skin one day. 

Close up of that corner

I must be very careful when buying shirts, there can't be any seams in that spot. The same thing goes for bras, the straps can't rub across that area. I have to carry my purse on my left shoulder or across my body from left to right. I have to be careful when I am in the right passenger side of autos because the seat belt goes right across that spot. 

If I want to give someone a hug, I have to watch out for glasses or cell phones in shirt pockets, purses hanging on their shoulders, sometimes even bulky jewelry can cause me pain. I even have to be careful about the position I sleep in. Sometimes I feel some discomfort in that spot when I am stretching my arms. I have to always be aware of it. 

I have held both choices in my hands, I have taken comparison photos. The rechargeable is definitely smaller and more importantly for me, thinner.

It's definitely thinner

And of course, now I know more people who now have the rechargeable unit. Some charge it daily, some twice a week, some less than that. Most agree the charging apparatus is bulky, especially if you travel often by air, which I don't. Most charge theirs when they are laid back in a recliner watching TV. It apparently just sits on top of the unit in their chest. This could be a potential problem for me because I prefer to sit up straight. I can't sit in a recliner, I find them very uncomfortable. 

The other advantage of the rechargeable is the now 15-year lifespan. This means less replacement surgeries and any time a Parkie can avoid surgery, it's always a good thing.

To further complicate things, I could also replace my Medtronic device with one from Boston Scientific or Abbott, but I have ruled this choice out. I have a good relationship with Medtronic and am happy with the way my device works. Switching might cause problems. 

I still have some time to decide, but I am leaning towards the thinner rechargeable. Maybe one of the new devices will be ready soon. I will let you know.


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