Deep Brain Stimulation

  • Unlike other surgical options, an advantage of DBS is that it is reversible and does not cause permanent damage to any part of the brain.
  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure that involves implanting electrodes in the brain, which deliver electrical impulses that block or change the abnormal activity that cause symptoms.

The deep brain stimulation system consists of four parts:

  • Leads (thin insulated wires) that end in electrodes that are implanted in the brain
  • A small pacemaker-like device, called a pulse generator, that creates the electrical pulses
  • Extension leads that carry electrical pulses from the device and are attached to the leads implanted in the brain
  • Hand-held programmer device that adjusts the device's signals and can turn the device off and on.
  • In deep brain stimulation, electrodes are placed in the targeted areas of the brain. The electrodes are connected by wires to a type of pacemaker device (called an implantable pulse generator) placed under the skin of the chest below the collarbone.
  • Once activated, the pulse generator sends continuous electrical pulses to the target areas in the brain, modifying the abnormal activity in that area of the brain that is causing symptoms. The deep brain stimulation system operates much the same way as a pacemaker for the heart. In fact, deep brain stimulation is referred to as “the pacemaker for the brain.”

Deep brain stimulation is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat a variety of movement and neurologic disorders including:

  • Parkinson's disease
  • Essential tremor
  • Dystonia
  • Epilepsy
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Before being considered a candidate for deep brain stimulation (DBS), patients must undergo an extensive evaluation process. Ideally, a multidisciplinary team of specialists including a neurologist, neurosurgeon, neuropsychologist and psychiatrist will assess the patient. Candidates for DBS are generally patients who meet these criteria :
  • Symptoms are not well controlled despite receiving the appropriate dose of medications.
  • Symptoms are significantly reducing a patient's quality of life.
  • Side effects from current medications cannot be tolerated.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has many advantages:

  • Unlike some other surgical options, DBS does not cause permanent damage in any part of the brain.
  • The electrical stimulation is adjustable and reversible as the person's disease changes or his or her response to medications change.
  • Because DBS is reversible and causes no permanent brain damage, use of innovative not-yet-available treatment options may be possible.
  • The stimulator can also be turned off at any time if DBS is causing excessive side effects without any long-term consequences.
  • Your stitches or staples will be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery.
  • Each of the 4 pin sites should be kept covered with band aids until they are dry. These should be changed every day as necessary.
  • You will be able to wash your head with a damp cloth, avoiding the surgical area.
  • You may only shampoo your hair the day after your stitches or staples are removed, but only very gently.
  • You should not scratch or irritate the wound areas.

When would I need to call my doctor

Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe and persistent headaches.
  • Bleeding from your incision.
  • Redness or increased swelling in the area of the incision.
  • Loss of vision.
  • A sudden change in vision.
  • A persistent temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

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