Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson’s Disease

For people with severe motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that are not adequately controlled by medication, a treatment called deep brain stimulation may offer some relief.

Deep brain stimulation requires the surgical placement of a small conductor called an electrode in the brain. The electrode delivers electrical stimulation that blocks the nerve signals that cause tremors. 

Specialists at NYU Langone’s Center for Neuromodulation perform more than 100 deep brain stimulation procedures each year. Our neurologists, neurosurgeons, and psychiatrists provide a thorough evaluation to ensure you’re a good candidate for the procedure.

Surgery to Implant the Deep Brain Stimulation Device

Deep brain stimulation requires the surgical implantation of an electrical device into the brain. A neurosurgeon uses imaging scans to pinpoint the right spot in the brain for implanting the electrode. 

VIDEO: Neurosurgeon Dr. Alon Mogilner explains how NYU Langone experts use deep brain stimulation to offer relief to people experiencing severe symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

When surgeons have determined the correct location, they create a small opening in the skull and insert a thin, insulated wire, through which they insert the electrode. Surgery to implant the electrode takes about four hours and requires general anesthesia. You may then stay overnight in the hospital for observation. 

The next day, doctors perform the second part of the surgery, which involves connecting the insulated wire to a battery-operated pulse generator that is implanted under the skin near the collarbone. Most people can return home after this procedure.

Several days after the surgery, you meet with your neurologist, who programs the pulse generator. Pushing a button on an external remote control sends electrical impulses from the pulse generator to the electrode in the brain. 

People who use deep brain stimulation work closely with their neurologist to find the combination of settings that best controls their symptoms. After several visits, they are able to control the strength of the electrical impulses on their own. Following this adjustment period, most people require only occasional maintenance visits.

Many people choose to use deep brain stimulation 24 hours a day, although some turn the system off before bedtime. Depending on the settings used, deep brain stimulation can significantly reduce motor problems in people with Parkinson’s disease.

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