What is Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)?

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a procedure performed to help treat neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease and epilepsy. Electrode leads are surgically implanted in the brain and connected to a device, called a neurostimulator (deep brain stimulator), that is placed underneath the skin (subcutaneously). The deep brain stimulator can send electrical signals through the electrodes to your brain to restore normal rhythms, or it can block electrical signals in specific areas of the brain to restore functioning. Although not a cure, DBS can treat symptoms of movement disorders such as pain and tremor when medication fails to work.

DBS surgery may be completed in one operating session, but it is more commonly performed in two parts. In the first stage of the procedure, your surgeon will map targets in your brain using CT or MRI imaging to determine where to place the electrodes. Then, by drilling holes into your skull, your surgeon will place the electrodes into specific areas in your brain. The holes will be closed, and you will require 1-2 days to recover in the hospital. After about two weeks, you will undergo another surgery to have the deep brain stimulator implanted. The stimulator is usually placed under the skin around the collarbone, chest, or abdomen, and it will be connected to the DBS electrodes through a subcutaneous wire. No component of the DBS system will be visible from outside. Following stimulator implantation, you may need to recover in the hospital for 1-2 days.

Within 2-4 weeks of your operation, your doctor will program the stimulator using a wireless device. You will work with your doctor to determine the most effective settings for the stimulator during follow-up visits. You will be given a handheld device so that you can turn the stimulator on or off and adjust its settings yourself. Your stimulator may have a rechargeable battery, in which case you will be given a charging unit. Stimulator batteries generally need to be replaced in 3-5 years.

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