OCD Surgery (obsessive compulsive disorder)

What is OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) surgery?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by the presence of distressing thoughts (obsessions) and recurrent and stereotyped behaviors (compulsions) persistently over time, causing anxiety and impairment of daily life. Depending on the severity of OCD, many patients receive treatment combining psychotherapy with the prescription of antidepressant medication.

The surgery is guided by magnetic resonance imaging.

Why is it performed?

For patients in whom the combined treatment with psychotherapy does not work, the so-called OCD surgery is performed, which consists in the stimulation of certain areas of the brain to control the neurotransmitters that cause the imbalance of this disorder. For this purpose, radiofrequency waves are used to produce a continuous and rhythmic discharge.

What does it consist of?

The surgery is guided by magnetic resonance imaging and patients are studied by means of functional tests to locate the areas to be treated. The procedure consists of placing an instrument in the head and the patient goes to the operating room. Two holes are made in the frontal area and a probe is introduced which is heated at its end, producing lesions like a grain of rice and disconnecting different brain regions. The operation lasts about 4 hours and is performed under general anesthesia.

Preparation for OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) Surgery

Before surgery it is important to review the patient’s medical history and question the symptoms in order to diagnose the disorder correctly. There are cases in which people with OCD may develop other types of pathologies such as anxiety and/or depression, so it is advisable to try to treat these symptoms before the operation.

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Post-operative care

During the postoperative period, patients may feel somewhat disoriented and have a headache. They may even experience fever, nausea and vomiting. Admission to the hospital may last up to 3 days. Subsequently, the patient must rest for a month and continue with exhaustive controls after the operation. The disorder improves progressively and slowly over a period of six months to one year.

The complications of this disorder have to do with the type of obsessions. They must be monitored as some of them can cause more serious health problems.

Alternatives to this treatment

In addition to surgery for this disorder, radiosurgery is also performed, which is responsible for treating patients with this or other psychological treatments without having to make any incisions. In any case, an expert in Neurosurgery should be consulted to study the best type of treatment depending on the patient’s case.