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Duodopa, the Pump – by Ian & Beverley Barnes

Recently my wife, who has been struggling with Parkinson’s for 13 years, underwent a procedure at the University of Alberta hospital to receive a new way of administering her medication.  It is known as “DuoDopa”; a pump method of providing Sinemet (levodopa/ carbidopa) directly to the small intestine.  A stoma (hole) is made through the stomach wall.  A tube is then inserted through the stoma and the Sinemet in the form of a gel is then pumped on a continuous basis into the small intestine.  Through this method the Sinemet reaches the brain faster and more efficiently thereby considerably reducing the wearing off time. 

My wife’s Parkinson’s has not gone away, the symptoms still exist; dyskinesia, slow movement, reduced energy, poor balance, anxiety etc.  It is the lessening of the wearing off periods that has changed.  We can now leave the house for longer periods without fear of the medication wearing off.  Shopping, visiting friends and enjoying activities that we have not been able to do for many years are now possible.  It has made a considerable improvement in our quality of life.  

The pump operates daily for 16 hours.  During the eight hours when the pump is switched off and disconnected my wife uses oral medication.  The medication (gel) is contained in a plastic cassette which attaches to the pump. One month’s medication consisting of 28 cassettes is delivered to our home by a courier service.  Each cassette holds one day’s medication.  The medication must be refrigerated.

There are many daily tasks required to operate DuoDopa.  Fortunately, they are relatively easy to perform and are not time consuming.  They involve hooking up the device, disconnecting, starting, stopping, adding the morning and extra doses and performing daily maintenance.  The pump can be disconnected for short periods of time during the day to allow for bathing, swimming, etc.  The stoma requires daily cleaning to prevent infection.  At our home these tasks along with other Parkinson’s needs are performed as a team effort.

In the Edmonton region and northern Alberta, the program is supervised by the Movement Disorder Clinic at the University of Alberta hospital.

We consider ourselves fortunate to have been selected to use this new method of administering my wife’s medication.  It has become a true blessing for us!