What's (app)ening?

What’s (app)ening

UF researchers develop app for deep brain stimulation patients

By Candi Crimmins
Dr. Michael Okun developed a new app to help deep brain stimulation patients.

Dr. Michael Okun worked with the UF Digital Worlds Institute to develop a new app that helps deep brain stimulation patients.

For people with neurological disorders who use deep brain stimulators, a low battery can mean the return of mentally and physically crippling symptoms. Fortunately for some of these people, now there’s an app for that.

The UF Health Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration has developed an iPhone and Android app for patients who use deep brain stimulators, or DBS. The app, released in December, enables clinicians and patients to measure the battery life left in their DBS devices. This is good news for the more than 100,000 people worldwide with implanted deep brain stimulators.

“During the past several years, we have implanted nearly 1,000 of these devices at UF Heath and have studied short- and long-term benefits and side effects,” said Michael S. Okun, M.D., the center’s co-director. “In some cases, battery depletion could lead to rebound of motor symptoms like tremor or dystonia, but in other neuropsychiatric conditions, it could lead to suicide attempts or other devastating consequences.”

The new app provides patients and their families with a new level of comfort and ease.

“We wanted to develop a simple tool and put it in the hands of physicians and patients,” Okun said. “During a doctor’s visit, the clinician can show the patient which are the stimulation settings on the device. In less than a minute, they can check the battery levels and schedule a pre-emptive battery change, if necessary, before re-emergence of bothersome and potentially devastating symptoms.”

The app was developed in collaboration with the UF Digital Worlds Institute. It can be purchased online at the Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market by searching for DBS BE, deep brain stimulation or DBS Battery Estimator/calculator. The app is compatible with Android, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.