Desperate for relief from obsessive compulsive behavior and unwanted tics,
Brett Riedlinger, a native of Laguna Niguel, California, traveled to North
Oaks Medical Center in Hammond to have Deep Brain Stimulation surgery
in October 2011.
“MY OCD affects me 24/7. It causes me to repeatedly turn lights on
and off, open and close doors, etc. On top of that, I’m obsessed
with doing all of this an even amount of times, most often when using
my left side of my body. There are many different things that my OCD causes
me to do, but worst of all, it keeps me from falling asleep at night.
I just can’t turn it off.” –Brett Riedlinger, North
Oaks Neurosurgery Clinic patient
Brett, 19, is diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). An anxiety
disorder, OCD causes people to have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings,
ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven
to do something (compulsions). In addition, he also has been diagnosed
with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by tics
– involuntary, repetitive and sudden movements that can include
Since 1996, the Riedlinger family has been on a quest to find the right
treatment for Brett. “The first symptoms of his condition were merely
excessive eye-blinking and throat clearing, which then progressed to violent
arm slinging and neck twisting. Over the years, Brett has been on almost
20 different medications to control his symptoms,” shares Cindy
Riedlinger, Brett’s mother.
"When Brett was growing up, he had difficulty performing tasks like
reading and writing. I would have to transcribe all of his homework because
his tics would repeatedly interrupt him. What should take a student 1
hour to complete would take us 4 to 5 hours or longer.” –Cindy
Riedlinger, Brett’s mother
In 2006, Brett had a successful Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery performed
by “DBS pioneer” Dr. Donald Richardson, a colleague of Dr. Masel.
Deep Brain Stimulation uses a surgically implanted medical device in the
brain, similar to a cardiac pacemaker, to deliver mild electrical pulses
to precisely targeted areas of the brain involved in motor control and
Brett recalls, “After my (first successful) surgery, it was the first
time in my life I had ever felt calmness within my body.”
Brett’s mother states, “For the next 2 years, he completed
all schoolwork on his own. His self-esteem returned seeing the results
of his own schoolwork. It really changed his life.”
In 2009, Brett experienced a return of his symptoms, and an X-ray revealed
a broken wire from Brett’s original surgery.
After exhausting all possible medical treatments to address the return
of symptoms, the Riedlinger family sought approval through their insurance
company for Brett to receive DBS rewiring as “corrective surgery.”
His procedure was part of a clinical trial overseen by the Food &
Drug Administration (FDA) for patients with OCD.
Fortunately, Brett’s story compelled the FDA’s Internal Review
Board (made up of neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, neurologists, neurophysiologists,
neuropsychologists and radiologists) to approve Brett for the clinical
trial on the humanitarian grounds that it was necessary to improve his
quality of life.
With approval secured, Dr. Richardson collaborated with Dr. Masel and Dr.
Chris Kao from Vanderbilt University to perform Brett’s procedure
at North Oaks Medical Center.
“Brett is a really unique young man,” explains Dr. Masel, who
has been treating Parkinson’s and tremor patients with DBS for about
10 years. “His OCD has chipped away at his quality of life over
the years. Corrective DBS surgery gives him the chance he deserves to
lead a happy, healthy, full life.”
Back at home in California, Brett is doing just that and seeing a California
neurologist to have his wiring fine-tuned as needed.
For more information about DBS, OCD or other conditions, such as Parkinson’s
Disease or Tremor or Dystonia, also known as “Torticollis,”
(involuntary muscle contractions causing abnormal postures), contact your
physician or North Oaks Neurosurgery Clinic. A physician referral may
be required, and insurance plans may not cover some procedures.