The Parkinson's Appeal for Deep Brain Stimulation


Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) involves implanting electrodes, thin wires, in some deep nuclei of the brain. These electrodes are connected to a pace-maker placed under the skin usually on the chest wall. The pace-maker is set to send regular electrical pulses to the brain. This procedure aims at improving the patients' quality of life by reducing the severity of their symptoms. This procedure is most frequently used to treat three conditions at present, Parkinson's disease, tremor and dystonia. Patients have to be selected carefully to optimise benefice and reduce risks. After surgery patients need to be followed regularly, the pace-maker setting and the drug dosage require frequent adjustments that have to be made by an experienced team for optimal benefit.

Diagram showing how deep brain stimulation works

What risks are associated with Deep Brain Stimulation?
As with any surgery, the procedure is not entirely risk-free. There is approximately a two to three percent chance of brain haemorrhage that may be of no significance, or that may cause paralysis, stroke, speech impairment or other major problems. This means that for every 100 patients who undergo surgery, two or three will experience permanent or severe complications. However, this also means that many patients will have no complications following surgery.

There is a 15 percent chance of a minor or temporary problem. Rarely, infections can occur after surgery. While treatment of an infection may require removal of the electrode, the infections themselves have not been observed to cause lasting damage. The electrode that is implanted in the brain, and the electrical systems that provide stimulation, are generally very well tolerated with no significant changes in brain tissue surrounding the electrodes

Below is a link to the European Parkinson's Disease Association - This page has details of two recent positive studies on DBS:

Download Frequently Asked Questions about Deep Brain Stimulation for Dystonia (PDF 108 KB) >>



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