The Food and Drug Administration approved DBS as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease in 2002, but the first DBS surgery was done about 10 years prior. Electrodes are placed in the area of the brain involving motor control, and are connected to a programmable pacemaker-like device implanted under the skin in the chest wall. While it does not cure the disease, it can dramatically improve many symptoms associated with PD and patient’s quality of life.

Is DBS Right For You?

The conditions that most commonly respond to DBS are motor fluctuations and dyskinesias that are often seen after several years of medical management. Motor fluctuations are often described as “turning on” and “turning off” many times a day as medication levels fluctuate. Dyskinesias are involuntary movements that are often described as “writhing” or “squirming” movements. DBS is effective in reducing “off time” and “on time“ with dyskinesias, while extending good functional state “on time” without dyskinesias. DBS also allows patients to reduce the amount of medication they are taking, which is helpful for patients that have side effects from medications, and to decrease the frequency of medication intake, that by itself can improve quality of life. Another indication for DBS in PD is medication- resistant tremor: in some cases parkinsonian tremor does not completely respond to pharmacological treatment and remains disabling despite appropriate medications. This kind of tremor usually does improve with DBS significantly.

It is important to understand that DBS is not successful in treating all symptoms of PD. It is a proven and effective treatment for motor problems, caused by PD – slowness, muscle stiffness, tremor, etc. Most non-motor symptoms of the disease, including cognitive decline, mood and behavior problems etc.., would not be expected to respond to DBS. In addition, balance problems and freezing of gait do not always improve with DBS.

Risks of DBS

DBS carries the risks of major neurologic surgery, with a very small, but serious, risk of severe complications including brain hemorrhage, stroke, seizures, postoperative confusion etc. Infection is the most common complication from DBS, can happen at any time after surgery, and usually happens at the side where pulse generator is implanted in the chest, not in the brain. Early and aggressively treatment with antibiotics usually clears infection, but sometimes removal of parts or the whole system is required. It is can be re-implanted after infection is cleared.

With DBS, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. To determine if DBS is a good treatment option, each patient should have a thorough evaluation by a movement disorders neurologist and neurosurgeon, working as a part of multidisciplinary team of experts, followed by detailed discussion regarding the potential risks, likely benefits, alternatives, and expectations. Check out a short video on Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). View former Rockies player, Ben Petrick’s testimony of his experience with DBS surgery.

All About Patient Experiences with Activa DBS