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Parkinson's: Meeting High Prevalence with Leading Options

Nebraska is one of the states with the highest per-capita prevalence of Parkinson’s disease (PD) in the country. That means one in 100 Nebraskans of all ages suffer from it.

History of exposure to pesticides, herbicides, manganese and copper may be the reason. “But these exposures do not explain the whole story,” says CHI Health Neurologist Melinda Burnett, MD, who specializes in treating the disease. “More research is needed.”

Dr. Burnett completed a neurology residency at the Mayo Clinic after medical school, where she was introduced to people with Parkinson’s. She then did a second fellowship in movement disorders in Australia, where she focused on research and clinical trials in patients with PD.

The bad news regarding the disease? “There are a lot of new medications out now to choose from, but unfortunately, they are mostly new spins on old medications, and they have not made a large impact on the management of the disease,” she said. The mainstay of surgical options continues to be deep brain stimulation surgery, which helps those with advanced disease and problems with the medications.

The good news? “A lot of work is being done on solving common problems in PD,” Dr. Burnett said. “This includes slowing down disease progression, helping imbalance and severe gait problems and avoiding the most feared complication: dementia.

“Fortunately, there are a lot of medications being studied right now that are trying to address these problems, so I am hopeful I will be able to offer my patients more hope in the future.”

Specialty offerings at the CHI Health Neurological Institute:

  • Botox treatments, which can help with things like drooling and painful foot cramping.
  • Functional Gait Recovery Program, available through a combined effort with the CHI Health Immanuel Rehabilitation Institute, Behavioral Health and the Neurological Institute. CHI Health is one of few programs in the country to offer the special program. “We treat a condition called functional gait disorder which is important to recognize,” Dr. Burnett said, “as it responds to physical therapy and counseling, not pills.”
  • CHI Health will soon have a movement neurophysiology lab which will help Dr. Burnett perform a diagnostic test that can help characterize a person’s movement disorder. 

Melinda Burnett, MD