Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) sends electronic signals to an area in the brain that controls movement and blocks some of the brain’s messages that cause annoying and disabling motor symptoms. It involves placing a pacemaker-like device under the skin in your chest (not in the brain). Very thin wires connect the device to your brain to enable the signals to reach the source of your symptoms.
DBS offers relief to many suffering from motor control difficulties, most commonly seen in patients with Parkinson’s disease. It may calm symptoms almost immediately and offers an increase in the quality of life for many patients. The procedure and treatment may also be used in epilepsy cases where the medication does not control seizures.
Who is a Candidate?
Patients with Parkinson’s disease whose medications don’t seem to work as well as they have in the past, and:
- Experience periods when medication is not helping enough
- Experience troubling dyskinesias (involuntary excessive movements)
- Take frequent doses of dopaminergic drugs (Levodopa, Sinemet*, Stalevo*, Parcopa*) in a typical day
- Despite having tried several drug combinations, experience any of the following troubling side effects: sleepiness, nausea, hallucinations, confusion/other thinking problems, lightheadedness upon standing, behavioral/personality changes
The procedure and treatment may also be used in epilepsy cases where the medication does not control seizures.
What to Expect
Until recently, the only option for treating many cerebrovascular conditions was brain surgery. The introduction of stent-assisted coiling has allowed patients to avoid surgical procedures, and recover much more quickly.
Implanting the device used in DBS is technically two procedures – one that implants the leads in your brain and the other that implants the neurostimulator under the skin of your chest right below the collarbone. These may be performed on the same day or on separate days.
Your hospital stay will usually be a few days so that all the planning and proper tests can be performed. These may include implant procedure and initial recovery before home care. Your surgical team will include:
- A neurologist
- A neurosurgeon specialized in DBS therapy
- Other healthcare professionals
People who have had the procedure usually describe it as demanding and exhausting rather than painful. Afterwards, you may have some discomfort and soreness that can be managed with pain medication.
Recovery can take several weeks. Discomfort or pain at the incision sites can be managed with medication. Avoid strenuous activity, moving your arm above shoulder level, and excessively stretching your neck.
You may want to gradually attempt activities that were difficult before your surgery. Talk about this with your doctor first and follow all of your doctor’s instructions.
You will see the best results after the system has been fine-tuned for your specific symptom control needs. These sessions allow your doctor to adjust the device so that it targets and controls your individual symptoms while minimizing side effects. You will return for follow-up sessions to further adjust the settings.
Periodic adjustments are a routine part of DBS therapy. After the initial programming, people with tremor may feel a brief tingling sensation, and usually experience relief from symptoms almost immediately.
It may take several months to reach maximum effect. Depending on the system and your therapy needs, you may have a controller that will allow you to turn the system on and off, adjust the stimulation, and check the battery.
Why Choose UHealth?
Highly-trained specialists. The experienced neurosurgeons at UHealth have performed more than 600 of these procedures.
The latest in DBS technology. Our program was the first in the state of Florida to offer DBS systems that have Bluetooth generators and offer more precise stimulation.
Dedicated support groups. Your care doesn’t stop with just your medical procedure. Our team offers a support group for patients and their loved ones who have undergone DBS surgery or are planning to have the surgery.
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