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Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Surgery

Deep brain stimulation involves implanting electrodes within certain areas of your brain. These electrodes produce electrical impulses that regulate abnormal impulses. Or, the electrical impulses can affect certain cells and chemicals within the brain.

The amount of stimulation in deep brain stimulation is controlled by a pacemaker-like device placed under the skin in your upper chest. A wire that travels under your skin connects this device to the electrodes in your brain.

Deep brain stimulation is used to treat a number of neurological conditions, such as:

  • Essential tremor
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Dystonia
  • Epilepsy
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Deep brain stimulation is also being studied as an experimental treatment for major depression, stroke recovery, addiction and dementia. Clinical trials may be available to candidates for deep brain stimulation.


Why it's done

Deep brain stimulation is an established treatment for movement disorders, such as essential tremor, Parkinson's disease and dystonia, and more recently, obsessive-compulsive disorder. It's also approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reduce seizures in difficult-to-treat epilepsy.

This treatment is reserved for people who aren't able to get control of their symptoms with medications.


Risks

Although deep brain stimulation is generally safe, any type of surgery has the risk of complications. Also, the brain stimulation itself may cause side effects.

Surgery risks

Deep brain stimulation involves creating small holes in the skull to implant the electrodes, and surgery to implant the device that contains the batteries under the skin in the chest. Complications of surgery may include:

  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Stroke
  • Infection
  • Breathing problems
  • Nausea
  • Heart problems
  • Seizures

Possible side effects after surgery

Side effects associated with deep brain stimulation may include:

  • Seizure
  • Infection
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Stroke
  • Hardware complications, such as an eroded lead wire
  • Temporary pain and swelling at the implantation site

A few weeks after the surgery, the device will be turned on and the process of finding the best settings for you begins. Some settings may cause side effects, but these often improve with further adjustments of your device.

Possible side effects of stimulation

  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Muscle tightness of the face or arm
  • Speech problems
  • Balance problems
  • Lightheadedness
  • Unwanted mood changes, such as mania and depression



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