L.I. teen has surgery at North Shore to cure his case of Tourette’s

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Most teenagers hate curfews, but not Robbie Lattieri.

Robbie, a 17-year-old Smithtown, L.I., resident, is able to go out with his friends for the first time in years after he had deep brain stimulation surgery at North Shore University Hospital that has kept his once out-of-control Tourette’s syndrome at bay.

“It’s night and day,” Robbie said of his symptoms after the operation during a news conference last Thursday at North Shore University Hospital. “I can do things that I never thought would be possible. I just recently started driving, which is amazing.”

Robbie developed vocal tics at age 7 and motor tics at 10 years old and had tried 42 different medications to treat his Tourette’s, but they did not work.

The teen’s parents then took him to North Shore, where Drs. Alon Mogilner, a neurosurgeon, and Dr. Michael Pourfar, a neurologist, at the hospital said he would be a good candidate for deep brain stimulation surgery.

The operation involved placing two electrodes on both sides of Robbie’s brain that replace the malfunctioning signals Robbie’s brain circuitry was giving off.

The procedure was a success, and Robbie said he rarely has tics anymore, which used to occur once a week for about two hours with other shorter episodes occurring every day.

“I can walk down the street without people looking at me like I had 12 heads,” said Robbie, who said the surgery “turned my life back around.” He is now set to attend public school for the first time since he was a child.

“I’m still just getting used to this new life and all the opportunities I have now,” Robbie said, which includes the curfew his parents recently put in effect.

“It’s 10 o’clock [p.m. now], but I’m trying to work it up a bit,” he said.

Robbie’s father, Jay Lattieri, said he was delighted to see how his son had progressed since the January surgery.

“From Day 1, when he came out of the operating room, he was fine. The tics were gone,” he said. “It’s just great to see him doing his thing now. His independence is back and he could live a life.”

Jay Lattieri said his son’s tics were so severe he could not be left in the house alone and he once suffered broken ribs from trying to restrain his son during one episode.

“He would try to run through walls,” Jay Lattieri said. “He would swing as if he was Mike Tyson.”

Lattieri said the countless medications his son would take were only effective for a few weeks and they came with serious side effects.

“Suicide was our worst side effect,” he said. “He’d always tried to end it all.”

Robbie said he hoped his story would encourage other Tourette’s sufferers to find a method that works to control their symptoms.

“There is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 11:07 am, October 12, 2011
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