Deep Brain Stimulation

Why is this surgery done?

You may need this surgery if you have Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, familial tremor, cervical dystonia, epilepsy, Tourette syndrome or other movement disorders. Over time, medications for treating these types of disease become less effective. Before quality of life declines significantly, we may recommend surgery for select patients.

How is deep brain stimulation done?

Deep brain stimulation surgery has been a well-established surgery for over 30 years. In the last 10 years, there has been dramatic improvement in computer technology, allowing surgery with increased accuracy and benefit, as well as allowing the patient to be completely asleep for the operation.

Before surgery can be scheduled, a neurologist (who does not do the surgery) and other healthcare providers will give you special testing to make sure you are good candidate for the operations.

One to two weeks before your surgery, you will have a special MRI of the brain at the hospital, along with an appointment to make sure you can safely go to sleep with anesthesia. Once asleep, you will have two very thin electrodes placed in your brain. There will be a CT scan done before you wake up to confirm the accuracy of the leads. You will stay in the hospital one night and go home the next day. One week later, you will have an outpatient surgery where the generator, also known as “battery,” will be placed in the same location below your collarbone where a pacemaker goes. This involves making two incisions that connect the leads to the battery. You will be able go home the same day, and the battery will be turned on in your neurologist’s office. You should ask your doctor about your specific surgery.

What are my risks? What are common complications?

With any surgery there are risks. You should talk to your doctor about them. Some common complications include infection and risks from anesthesia. Anytime you undergo full anesthesia, there is a risk of stroke or neurological injury. Those risks are much lower than other operations.

What do I need to know before surgery?

Deep brain stimulators are common in neurosurgery, and your surgical team is very experienced. You will be asked to answer a lot of questions and may have other tests done before surgery. You should follow all instructions given to you before surgery. The amount of time you will spend in the hospital after a surgery should be short. Most patients require only one night in the hospital after the first surgery. It is very important that you do not take any blood thinning medication for one week before your surgery. This includes any vitamins, herbs or supplements which may have blood thinning components in them.

General discharge instructions.

Your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions when leaving the hospital. In general, shower daily keep your incisions clean with soap and water, but do not immerse/soak your incisions under water. (Do not take a bath or swim.) Do not touch/manipulate/scratch your incisions. Avoid straining or lifting heavy objects. Eat a well-balanced diet to help with healing. Make sure someone looks at your incisions every day and contacts your doctor’s office with any concerns. Most patients can resume normal activity a few weeks after surgery.

What should I expect while recovering?

You may be sore at the sites of your different incisions where the electrodes were passed under the skin. This is temporary, and will get better over time.You may feel more tired when first returning home. Be sure to rest; however, you should try to walk daily if possible. You should feel significantly better by the time you see your neurologist a few weeks after surgery.


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