DBS Surgery FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions during Brain Surgery Live – Broadcast from University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center on the National Geographic Channel
- Will DBS cure Parkinson’s disease?
No, deep brain stimulation (DBS) will not cure Parkinson’s or halt its progression, but it can relieve the symptoms of this degenerative disease.
- Why is the patient awake during the procedure? Why doesn't he feel any pain?
The brain has no nerve endings, so the patient does not feel any pain. The patient must remain awake and alert in order to follow the neurologist’s directions throughout the procedure, which ensures that we are targeting the correct part of the brain.
- What patients qualify for deep brain stimulation? Is age a factor?
Patients who are relatively healthy (no untreated cardiac disease or dementia, for example) or have no other serious disabilities may be considered. Age is only a factor in that the benefits of DBS decline with advancing age, however even patients in their 70s and 80s may be considered.
- Why is the neurostimulator turned on weeks after the electrodes are implanted?
A week or two after the electrodes are placed in the brain, a programmable battery-powered device is implanted in the chest just below the collarbone. Physicians usually wait a few weeks to turn on the stimulator to allow for swelling in the brain to resolve, resulting in more effective programming.
- How long will the system work after implantation? Does it need to be replaced at any time?
The doctor can adjust the device through a remote control based on the patient’s symptoms. The electrodes in the brain do not need to be changed; however the generator will need to be replaced every three to five years.
- What else can DBS treat?
DBS is FDA-approved to treat essential tremors and Parkinson’s disease. Certain facilities with special clinical oversight, such as UH Cleveland Medical Center, have a Humanitarian Device Exemption through the FDA to utilize DBS for dystonia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Is the procedure always done on both sides of the brain, or are there cases where electrodes are just implanted on one side? How are the holes in the skull closed?
The electrodes may be implanted on just one side of the brain if the patient’s symptoms only occur on one side, particularly in the case of essential tremor. The incisions in the scalp are covered with a hard plastic cap that locks and secures the electrodes in place.