Deep brain stimulation is a type of therapy that uses targeted electrical impulses to stimulate a specific area of the brain. A mild electrical current is discharged at regular intervals from a tiny implanted device, altering activity in a portion of the brain. Deep brain stimulation does not destroy or remove brain tissue and it can be adjusted or stopped at any type during treatment, based on the patient’s own needs and objectives.
Deep brain stimulation is often used in patients with Parkinson’s disease to relieve symptoms like tremor that cannot be adequately controlled with medicine. In fact, because it does not destroy or permanently alter brain tissue, deep brain stimulation is considered the surgery of choice for most Parkinson’s patients. It’s also used to treat essential tremor, a neurological condition that causes uncontrollable shaking or similar movements. In addition to treating tremors, deep brain tissue stimulation can be useful in treating dyskinesia, abnormal or impaired voluntary movements often associated with medications like levodopa. Less commonly, it can be used to treat severe tremor caused by multiple sclerosis when other options have failed to provide relief. Deep brain stimulation typically is used in combination with levodopa.
The device is implanted into the brain through a small hole drilled into the skull. Tiny wires are implanted into the brain and a tiny generating device is implanted in the chest and connected to the electrodes by a very thin wire. Most procedures can be completed in about three to four hours, although sometimes the procedure can take longer. In some patients, the surgery is completed in two steps, implanting the wires in one surgery and the device in a second surgery. During the procedure, the patient will remain awake to aid the surgeon in the correct placement of the electrodes into the brain tissue. Numbing anesthetics will be used to prevent any discomfort. Once the procedure is complete, most patients remain in the hospital for a day or two to ensure stimulation is ideally adjusted.