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Care for Parkinson Disease

Why Choose Treatment for Parkinson Disease at University of Colorado Hospital?

The Movement Disorders Center at University of Colorado Hospital features a comprehensive surgical program for Parkinson disease, as well as an active clinical research program.

Three fellowship-trained movement disorder specialists and a nurse practitioner trained in movement disorders provide care.

Medical Team

A multidisciplinary team of health care providers may be involved in treatment of Parkinson disease.

Parkinson Disease Specialists


Movement disorder specialist. A neurologist who has additional training in diagnosis and management of disorders that produce tremor, jerking, involuntary movements, unusual postures, and certain types of incoordination, such as Parkinson disease.

Neurologist. A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the nervous system.

Neuropsychologist. A psychologist who specializes in studying brain behavior relationships.

Neurosurgeon. A surgeon who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with injuries and diseases of the brain, spine and peripheral nerves.


Other Parkinson Disease Staff


Nurse practitioner. A registered nurse who has completed specific advanced nursing education and training in the diagnosis and management of medical conditions.

Genetic counselor. A counselor who explores the hereditary basis of a condition.

Speech therapist. A health care professional who treats speech, language, cognitive-communication and swallowing disorders.

Physical therapist. A health care professional who treats individuals with various health conditions to reduce pain, restore function and prevent disability.

Featured Providers

Dr. Olga Klepitskaya is a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders and surgical treatment of movement disorders. Her area of expertise is Deep Brain Stimulation (see below) surgery for Parkinson disease.

Dr. Maureen Leehey is a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders. Her area of expertise includes neuroprotection for Parkinson disease, testing therapies for the disorder and transplantation.

Patient Education

Living with Parkinson Disease

Symptoms of Parkinson disease usually occur at about age 60.   As symptoms intensify, walking and talking and other simple tasks may become increasingly difficult. Although there is no cure for Parkinson disease, many medications, surgical treatments and therapies are used to help lessen these symptoms.

It is important that you talk to your doctor about medicines that might improve your symptoms or the symptoms of a family member. Discuss any side effects that may result from taking medication.

Getting a Second Opinion about Parkinson Disease

Diagnosis of Parkinson disease is based on a number of factors, not a specific test. It can be difficult to diagnose, especially in the early stages. People diagnosed with Parkinson may seek a second opinion from a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders and has extensive experience with Parkinson.

Parkinson's Wellness Recovery - UCH Rehabilitation
  • Join us for a fun and targeted exercise class for individuals with Parkinson's disease.
  • Contact the UCH Rehabilitation practice at (720) 848-2000.
  • Download PDF flyer

Additional Resources

Tests and Treatments


A specialist will review your medical history and symptoms. There is no diagnostic test for Parkinson disease; instead, a diagnosis will be made based on a thorough neurological exam and discussion of symptoms. Standard criteria are used to diagnose Parkinson disease.



A wide variety of medications are used to treat Parkinson disease, each with varying side effects. Medications are usually started when symptoms become bothersome.


Neurosurgeons may perform Deep brain stimulation (DBS, see heading below) to block abnormal nerve signals that cause symptoms such as tremors.

Lifestyle Modifications

Many patients find that a eating healthy diet and doing 30 minutes of daily physical activity helps with symptoms of Parkinson disease.

Deep Brain Stimulation

New Hope for Movement Disorders

University of Colorado Hospital is one of just a handful of centers in the U.S. to offer Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) procedures as a treatment for movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremors and dystonia. Its unique team approach makes the Deep Brain Stimulation program at University of Colorado Hospital one of the most effective and experienced in the country.

What is Deep Brain Stimulation?

Deep Brain Stimulation is a type of brain surgery used to improve the control of movement in patients with movement disorders.

Watch our YouTube video

The deep brain stimulation procedure attempts to block the abnormal activity of neurons that cause debilitating neuromuscular problems. DBS is not a cure for any disease. The goal of DBS is to help control symptoms of the condition, such as improving the control of movement, to help to provide a better quality of life.

How is DBS done?

The procedure involves implanting thin wires with attached electrodes into specific areas of the brain. Certain parts of the brain control different parts of the body. Based on the disorder and detailed information about the patient’s symptoms, the surgical team determines where the electrodes will be placed.

The wires run from the electrodes under the skin and connect to a small pulse generator, similar to a heart pacemaker, which is placed under the skin of the chest near the collarbone. Several weeks after all implant surgeries are complete, the implanted generator is programmed and adjusted to best control symptoms.

Why Choose UCH?

The success of the DBS procedure is highly dependent on the ability of the surgical team to effectively place and program the electrode stimulators. This is why experience and collaboration is crucial.

Superior Expertise and Experience

Patient outcomes make the DBS program at University of Colorado Hospital one of the busiest in the country.

Dr. Ojemann, neurosurgeon on the DBS team, has performed more than 200 DBS implants.

Multidisciplinary Collaboration

The UCH program distinguishes itself by providing comprehensive multidisciplinary care that considers every aspect of the disorder and how they impact the individual patient’s life.

  • Neurosurgeon – performs surgical needs evaluation, precise state-of-the-art targeting of neurological structures, and implantation surgery
  • Neurologist – performs complete neurological testing, guides electrode placement through microelectrode recording and physiological testing, and carefully adjusts and monitors stimulus parameters and medication dosages
  • Neuropsychologist – performs exhaustive cognitive and neuropsychological testing
  • Psychiatrist – addresses psychological issues that are common in patients with movement disorders (depression, anxiety, OCD)
  • Physical Therapist – performs pre-operative and post-operative evaluations; therapist is specially trained in movement disorders
  • Physician Assistant – provides continuous support throughout the process
  • DBS Support Group – former UCH patients who act as “family liaisons” between patients and providers.

Am I a Candidate for DBS?

Deep Brain Stimulation is not appropriate for all patients. The DBS group at University of Colorado Hospital recommends that the following conditions be met:

  • You have tried a reasonable course of medications.
  • You are significantly disabled from your disease or disorder.
  • You are in reasonably good health otherwise.
  • You do not require routine MRI scans of the body.  Many times CT scans or other studies are acceptable substitutes for MRI studies.  MRI in general is contraindicated if you have DBS.
  • You can participate in the programming of the device once implanted.  This requires you to provide feedback during programming sessions and to attend clinic visits regarding the maintenance of your implant.
  • You have no untreated or poorly controlled psychiatric disorder or severe memory problems.
  • You have a good support network of family and friends.

In the News

May 28, 2008 - Deep-brain stimulation eases Parkinson's, Denver Post

February 25, 2008 - Team Approach Makes UCH One of Nation's Busiest Deep Brain Stimulation Centers, UCH Insider

Other Resources

For DBS Support Group information:

Research Study: Acupuncture for Parkinson's

It's one of Parkinson's patients' most frequent complaints: chronic fatigue.

"It interferes with what [patients] have to do every day," says Benzi Kluger, MD, neurology professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "It also interferes with their ability to exercise, which is important to helping them maintain balance and function. It's hard to do that on a regular basis if you're fatigued."

A new focus in the fight against fatigue

"It ranks as one of the three most disabling symptoms patients report," says Benzi Kluger, MD. He is working with Dr. Lisa Corbin, head of the hospital’s unique Center for Integrative Medicine, to learn how to relieve it.

For research study information

Contact Etta Abaca at (303) 724-2193 or

Does it work?

Kluger and Corbin are testing to see if acupuncture can help. In their research study, funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, patients will get twice-weekly acupuncture treatments for six weeks. The doctors hope to enroll 100 patients whose Parkinson's already has been diagnosed.

The study will compare how much fatigue affected patients' lives before treatment to how much their fatigue changed afterward. "Secondarily, we're looking for changes in quality of life and other movement symptoms," Kluger adds.

Parkinson Disease at a Glance

Parkinson disease is a movement disorder most commonly characterized by tremors of the hands, arms and face. The disease affects nerve cells in the brain that control muscle movement.

People who suffer from Parkinson disease generally have the following symptoms:

  • Tremors of the hands, legs, arms and/or face
  • Stiffness in the trunk, arms and/or legs
  • Poor balance
  • Slow movement

Parkinson disease affects 1 million people in the U.S. The cause of the disease is unknown, although scientists believe it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Parkinson Disease Research. The Movement Disorders Center at UCH researches a number of areas, including agents that slow down the progression of a disease, known as neuroprotectors. Other research areas include genetics and epidemiology of movement disorders and the use of deep brain stimulation surgery in Parkinson disease.

Learn more about the Department of Neurosurgery

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