Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep brain stimulation is a surgical procedure that can be used to treat the symptoms of a variety of neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, tremors or muscle contractions associated with dystonia or multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depression, Tourette syndrome and certain types of chronic pain. 

Baptist Health is nationally recognized for excellence in deep brain stimulation procedures. We offer a full spectrum of neurosurgical care and the latest approaches to deep brain stimulation surgery. Best of all, you’ll appreciate convenient appointment times, locations near you and a personalized focus to meet your needs before, during and after your procedure.

What is a Deep Brain Stimulation Procedure?

Deep brain stimulation surgery involves implanting one or more electrodes within certain areas of the brain. Thin, insulated wires connect the electrodes to a very small battery-powered neurotransmitter that is implanted in the chest, upper abdomen or near the collarbone. 

What Can Deep Brain Stimulation Accomplish?

The electrical impulses produced by the neurotransmitter and electrodes regulate abnormal signals in the brain and can also affect the production of certain chemicals. The stimulation is not a cure for the underlying condition, but can be used to control symptoms in cases where medications or behavioral therapy are ineffective.

In patients with Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, essential tremors and multiple sclerosis, deep brain stimulation can be used to treat tremors, rigidity, stiffness, slowed movement, and walking problems. Patients with severe depression may experience elevated mood, and patients with other neurological conditions have responded to deep brain stimulation treatment as well.

What Can I Expect During the Procedure?

Before the surgery, your doctor will order brain-imaging scans such as an MRI or CT scan to map your brain to see exactly where to implant the electrodes. The procedure may take anywhere from three to six hours. You will be fitted with a head frame to keep your head still during the procedure. You will be given a local anesthetic to numb the scalp, but in most cases, you will be awake and alert during the procedure. This allows your neurologist to test your response to the stimulation to make sure the electrodes are placed properly while minimizing side effects.

The second phase of this surgery involves implanting the neurotransmitter and connecting it to the electrodes by running wires under your skin. This may be done immediately after the electrode implants or at a later date, and is done under general anesthesia.

Both phases of a deep brain stimulation procedure generally require a hospital stay of 24 hours after the procedure unless complications arise. In some cases, your neurotransmitter will be activated before you leave the hospital, but it most cases your neurologist will recommend a few weeks of recovery before the transmitter is activated.

During the activation appointment, your neurologist will set the strength and frequency of the stimulation, and may also provide you with a remote and instructions for turning the neurotransmitter on and off. Finding the ideal settings to treat your condition may require several visits, and your stimulation levels may also need to be adjusted over time. Your doctor will create a follow-up plan to ensure the best possible treatment of your symptoms.

Once home, it is important to follow all instructions about exercise, physical activity and wound care in order to successfully recover. Recovery will depend upon your age, health and physical condition before surgery and typically lasts between three to five days.

Deep Brain Stimulation Possible Risks

Although deep brain stimulation is generally safe, any type of surgery has the risk of complications. Possible risks from deep brain stimulation surgery include:

  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Stroke
  • Infection
  • Breathing problems
  • Nausea
  • Heart problems
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Temporary pain and swelling at the neurotransmitter implantation site

The stimulation produced by your implants may also cause side effects, but these are usually minimized by adjusting your stimulation settings. Possible side effects include:

  •  Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Muscle tightness of the face or arm
  • Speech problems
  • Balance problems
  • Lightheadedness
  • Unwanted mood changes

Next Steps with MyChart

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