Getting DBS: What to Expect
You're probably wondering what to expect if you choose DBS. Here are the steps. Along the way, you will have the support and expertise of a neurologist and neurosurgeon who have special training and experience with deep brain stimulation.
1. EVALUATION — DETERMINING IF YOU ARE A CANDIDATE
Your neurologist — typically a movement disorder specialist — will evaluate you to see if DBS is a good option for you. The evaluation usually includes:
- Medical history
- Neurological exam of your movements, both on and off medications
- MRI of the brain to check whether there are any issues that would pose a risk during the surgery
- Lab tests, such as a blood test to make sure your blood clots properly
- Neuropsychological tests
The doctor will share the results with you, and together you will decide whether or not to go forward with the therapy.
2. PLANNING — PREPARING FOR SURGERY
Your doctor will create images and maps of your brain to help guide the placement of leads during the surgery. You will have an MRI or CT scan to capture images of your brain.
3. SURGERY — PLACING THE SYSTEM
There are two parts to the DBS surgery: implanting very thin wires (leads) in the brain and placing the pacemaker-like device, called the neurostimulator, under the skin of the chest. The two parts may be done on the same day, or two different days. Find out more about the surgery.
4. PROGRAMMING — GETTING THE INITIAL SETTINGS RIGHT
A few weeks later, your doctor will turn on the neurostimulator and adjust the stimulation to best control your symptoms while minimizing side effects.
- Most people don't feel the stimulation at all when it’s first turned on, but some feel a brief tingling.
- It will take a few programming sessions to find the stimulation levels that work best for you — don't get discouraged.
- You'll have follow-up visits to check your results and adjust as needed. These appointments are key to getting the results you want over time.
5. CONTINUOUS THERAPY — RETURNING TO REGULAR ACTIVITIES
Then it's time to get back to your life!
- Return to your usual activities, always following your doctor's guidance on what's okay and what to avoid.
- Unlike the external drug pump sometimes used to treat Parkinson's symptoms, DBS has only minimal impact on your daily activities, the clothes you can wear, or how you travel.
- DBS delivers therapy 24 hours a day, so it's working to control your symptoms when you wake up first thing in the morning.
- DBS doesn’t require any maintenance from you (except for recharging if you have a rechargeable system).
6. CHECKUPS — ONGOING CARE
It's extremely important to attend all of your checkups with the doctor who manages your DBS therapy. Your doctor will:
- Make sure that your DBS system is working properly.
- Adjust your stimulation to best control your symptoms.
- Check the battery of your neurostimulator to see if you will soon need a device replacement.