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Parkinson’s Disease DBS Surgery

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a surgical treatment involving implantation of electrodes into core structures of the brain. These electrodes are then connected to a programmable pacemaker-like device implanted under the skin in the chest wall. The Food and Drug Administration approved DBS as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease in 2002, and while it does not cure the disease, it can improve the management of many of the motor symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life.

Is DBS Right For You?

The conditions that most commonly respond to DBS are motor fluctuations and dyskinesias. Motor fluctuations are often seen after several years of medical management, and are often described as “turning on” and “turning off” many times a day as medication levels fluctuate. DBS is often effective in reducing “off time”, and in reducing the amount of medication required to achieve “on” states.

Dyskinesias are involuntary movements that are often described as “writhing” or “squirming” movements. Levodopa-induced dyskiesias are seen in Parkinson’s disease, often emerging after several years of medical therapy. DBS can reduce the amount of medication required to maintain an “on” state, and can thus lessen medication-related dyskinesias.

Risks of DBS

DBS carries the risks of major neurologic surgery, with a small risk of severe complications including hemorrhage into the brain, and infection, which could require removal of the system.

DBS is not successful in treating all symptoms of PD. Most non-motor symptoms of the disease, including cognitive decline, would not be expected to respond to DBS. In addition, balance problems and freezing of gait are typically less responsive to surgery than symptoms of tremor, rigidity, and bradykinesia. With DBS, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and to determine if DBS is a good treatment option, each patient should have a thorough evaluation and discussions with an experienced neurologist and surgical team regarding the 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.

For more information on DBS