Deep Brain Stimulation
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical treatment for disabling neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease (PD), essential tremor and dystonia. It is the most common surgical procedure performed to treat movement disorders in the United States.
The procedure involves implanting a tiny battery-operated medical device that delivers electrical impulses to specific areas of the brain that control movement. It may be considered for patients whose symptoms have not responded to medical therapy. The most notable benefits associated with DBS include improvements in quality of life, tremor, rigidity and bradykinesia, or slowness of movement.
For information about UC Irvine Health neurosurgeons who specialize in deep brain stimulation, please call 714-456-6966 or 855-557-1531.
How does DBS work?
The DBS system contains three components:
- The lead, a thin insulated wire inserted through a small opening in the skull and passed through the brain to the targeted area
- The extension, another insulated wire that is passed under the skin of the head and neck to the shoulders
- The implantable impulse generator (IPG), a battery-operated medical device about the size of a small stopwatch
DBS most often involves two procedures. The lead and extension are surgically implanted in the first procedures. At a later time, the IPG is inserted, usually beneath the skin near the collarbone, then connected to the extension wire.
Once connected, the IPG sends electrical impulses to the brain by way of the extension and lead wires. The impulses target specific areas of the brain that control movement, blocking abnormal nerve signals that cause the symptoms of Parkinson's and other movement disorders. The IPG can be adjusted without further surgery to modulate the effects of the electrical impulses.
Before the procedure, the patient undergoes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scanning to determine the exact location within the brain to implant the device. Commonly targeted areas are the thalamus, subthalamic nucleus and the globus pallidus.
What are the benefits of DBS?
Many patients experience considerable lessening of symptoms after undergoing DBS. Most patients still need to take medications, but the dosage is usually decreased, which reduces side effects such as involuntary movements.
Am I a candidate for DBS?
According to movement disorder experts and the National Parkinson® Foundation, you may be a good candidates for deep brain stimulation if you:
- Have had Parkinson's disease symptoms for at least five years
- Have symptoms that fluctuate on and off, with or without involuntary movements
- Respond well to medications, although for shorter periods of time
- Have tried varying combinations of medications under the supervision of a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders
- Have symptoms that interfere with daily activities