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Surgery for Parkinson's disease has come a long way since it was first developed more than 50 years ago. The newest version of this surgery, deep brain stimulation (DBS), was developed in the 1990s and is now a standard treatment. Worldwide, about 30,000 people have had deep brain stimulation.
What is DBS?
During deep brain stimulation surgery, electrodes are inserted into the targeted brain region using MRI and neurophysiological mapping to ensure that they are implanted in the right place. A device called an impulse generator or IPG (similar to a pacemaker) is implanted under the collarbone to provide an electrical impulse to a part of the brain involved in motor function. Those who undergo the surgery are given a controller, which allows them to check the battery and to turn the device on or off. An IPG battery lasts for about three to five years and is relatively easy to replace under local anesthesia.
Is DBS Right for Me?
Although DBS is certainly the most important therapeutic advancement since the development of levodopa, it is not for every person with Parkinson's. It is most effective - sometimes, dramatically so - for individuals who experience disabling tremors, wearing-off spells and medication-induced dyskinesias.
Deep brain stimulation is not a cure for Parkinson’s, and it does not slow disease progression. Like all brain surgery, deep brain stimulation surgery carries a small risk of infection, stroke, or bleeding. A small number of people with Parkinson’s have experienced cognitive decline after this surgery. That said, for many people, it can dramatically relieve some symptoms and improve quality of life. Studies show benefits lasting at least five years.
It is very important that a person with Parkinson's who is thinking of surgery be well informed about the procedures and realistic in his or her expectations.
- By downloading the booklet Understanding Deep Brain Stimulation, written by PDF Scientific Editor Dr. Blair Ford, or requesting your print copy.
Do you have more questions about surgical treatments for PD? Ask the experts your question by email or call our helpline at (800) 457-6676.