Deep Brain Stimulator for Parkinson's Disease

A deep brain stimulator is an implanted device which is used to treat some patients with Parkinson's Disease, as well as a few other diseases. It is currently the most commonly employed surgical treatment for Parkinsons disease.

Most patients with Parkinsons disease are first treated with medication and physical therapy. However, in patients with more advanced disease which is no longer adequately and reliably controlled with medication, these procedures may help to stabilize symptoms and resolve abnormal movements such as tremor.

What Is It?

A deep brain stimulator is a long electrode which is placed into the brain through a small hole in the skull. This electrode is placed into a group of cells deep in the brain called the subthalamic nucleus. This nucleus is a part of the circuit in the brain important for motor control called the basal ganglia. In Parkinson's disease the loss of neurons in the substantia nigra leads to an imbalance in the activity of the basal ganglia. The brain stimulator aims to restore this balance artificially.

The stimulator is connected to a pulse-generator, a computer which controls the electrical stimulation delivered through the electrodes in the brain. The pulse generator is a small metal device that is generally implanted under the skin on the upper chest. When the electrodes deliver electrical stimulation, they cause the cells in the subthalamic nucleus to shut down. This aims to help balance out the imbalance that is caused by Parkinson's disease.

The specific location and type of electrical stimulation can be adjusted and is often changed to try to optimize the treatment and maximize symptom resolution while minimizing any side effects.

What Are The Risks of a Deep Brain Stimulator?

As with any surgical procedure there are risks inherent to the implantation of a stimulator. However, serious side effects or complications are relatively rare. The electrode is placed through normal brain into its location in the subthalamic nucleus so there is the risk of causing bleeding into or around the brain and of stroke. Both of these are relatively rare, but are risks nonetheless. Also, because an implanted electrode, wires and pulse-generator device are left inside the body, there is the risk of infection which may require removal or replacement of all or a part of the apparatus. Minor side effects, like sensory changes and the like, may occur with stimulation, but these can generally be minimized by optimizing the placement of the electrodes and modifying the stimulation.

The potential benefits and risks of a deep brain stimulator should be discussed with each patient's own treating physicians. Any surgical procedure or other treatment cannot be generally recommended without knowing the specific details of each case.

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Important Note: This site is not intended to offer medical advice. Every patient is different, and only your personal physician can help to counsel you about what is best for your situation. What we offer is general reference information about various disorders and treatments for your education.

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