Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a surgical therapy for Parkinson’s disease (PD). It consists of surgical implantation of leads (one or two) with four electrical contacts into specific areas of the brain. The leads are attached by an extension wire to an implanted battery operated medical device called an impulse generator or neurostimulator. The DBS leads deliver electrical currents to the brain to block abnormal nerve signals which can lessen PD symptoms. The symptoms that respond best to DBS are tremor, rigidity, slowed movement and dyskinesia (a side effect of PD medication). For some patients, it can improve walking. DBS is a treatment for PD; it does not cure PD nor does it stop the progression of PD. DBS therapy is considered a safe and effective treatment for PD and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. It is covered by Medicare and all major insurance carriers.

When you are first diagnosed with PD, your neurologist or movement disorders specialist (neurologist specifically trained in PD) will use medications to help reduce the symptoms of PD. Your condition may be well controlled with medication alone and DBS may not be necessary or may be delayed for several years. A movement disorders neurologist is the best resource to confirm your diagnosis of PD and to help determine if DBS would be a good choice for you.

A GOOD candidate for DBS is as follows: you continue to have a good response to your PD medications at times, but it does not last throughout the day. You may experience on/off time: (on) your medications work and make your symptoms better, (off) then it stops working and your symptoms become severe. Your neurologist has tried many different medications and combinations of them without success. Your symptoms of PD are interfering with your activities of daily living.

DBS is NOT as effective in relieving some symptoms, such as difficulty with balance or walking, freezing episodes or speech problems. DBS would not be advised if you have severe confusion, depression, anxiety or another psychiatric illness that is not improved with medication or counseling. If you are not certain about your PD diagnosis, or you have another serious health condition, you may need further evaluation by a movement disorders specialist and/or your primary physician.

For more information on DBS contact your local Movement Disorders Center and ask to speak to the nurse who specializes in caring for DBS patients. In Western New York, call DBS nurse Pat Weigel @ 716-218-1020.