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Breaking the obsessive link

mumbai Updated: Jun 28, 2010 03:17 IST
Neha Bhayana
Neha Bhayana
Hindustan Times
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Sachin Shirke (34) could never focus on the road while driving. Every time the Thane resident changed gears, he would fret about the sweat from his palm wetting the gear stick. Even slowing down and furiously wiping it would not put him at ease.

When talking to someone, Shirke’s concentration would waver on seeing that person’s shirt collar inverted or even if the wall-clock behind was tilted. His blood pressure would shoot up and heart would pump faster. Despite trying not to, he would end up straightening the collar and stretching to re-align the clock.

Shirke was suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) from the age of 16. His fixation for cleanliness and perfection consumed him so much that he dropped out of college and was unable to work. When various medicines failed to help, Shrike attempted suicide in June 2008. A surgery later, he is glad he failed.

Shirke underwent Bilateral Anterior Cingulotomy at Sion Hospital in August 2008. The unique surgery involves destroying a tiny portion of the brain, which acts as the link between the obsessive thought and the compulsive action.

“For 16 years, I was a slave of my mind,” said Shirke, “Now, I have better control like normal people.”

Shirke is one of the seven OCD patients who have undergone Cingulotomy for free at the civic-run Sion Hospital in the past two years as part of a study undertaken by the neurosurgery and psychiatry departments to gauge the procedure’s efficacy. PD Hinduja Hospital has also conducted four Cingulotomies.

“In OCD patients, some parts of the brain are hyperactive. When they get a thought, they are compelled to act. We break the circuit that converts the obsessive thoughts into action,” said Dr Alok Sharma, head of neurosurgery at Sion, who conducted the surgeries.

The quality of life of Shirke and four other patients improved significantly after the surgery. Two patients did not benefit much. “These five patients experienced over 50 per cent reduction in OCD,” said Dr Nilesh Shah, head of the psychiatry department.

Experts believe surgery is a good “last resort” for OCD patients, especially since many don’t respond to drugs and some develop suicidal tendency.

“I would recommend surgery to OCD patients if they are resistant to medicines. Patients do see some improvement after Cingulotomy,” said Dr Milind Sankhe, neurosurgeon at Hinduja Hospital.

Shirke noticed the change immediately. “My towel was hanging off the edge of the bed-side table in the ward, but I let it be. Unlike before, I was able to control the urge to set it right,” he said.

Shirke recently completed a diploma in engineering drawing, without caring about the chalk powder dropped on the classroom floor, and has started working.

“I run an outdoor advertising business. I also plan to start two more businesses and move out of my parents’ house soon,” he said.