Medtronic invited this patient to share her story candidly. Not everyone who receives Medtronic DBS Therapy will receive the same results as this individual. Some people may experience significant symptom relief from DBS Therapy, and others may experience minimal symptom relief. DBS Therapy is not for everyone, so it's important to talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks.
With four young children, Anna didn’t have time to worry about a little clumsiness in her left hand. But when others started to notice her tremor, and when it spread to her other hand, she decided to see a neurologist. He diagnosed Anna, who was in her early 30s, with Parkinson’s disease.
For years, she controlled her symptoms with medications. She was able to care for her family and take painting classes at the local college. But as her Parkinson’s progressed, her medications started to lose effect. She could no longer hold a paintbrush. Or express her creativity through drawing.
Gradually, she took more medications, more frequently. But unintended movements (dyskinesia) would occur after about 30 to 60 minutes. Everyday life became more challenging.
“The pills were as much a problem as the disease,” Anna said. “I was miserable. I could no longer drive, I barely ate, I could hardly walk, and I couldn’t turn over in bed.”
Her doctor told her about a neurologist who was doing deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease. She wanted to put aside the thought of brain surgery, but after meeting the neurologist and talking about the benefits of DBS, Anna knew this was it. Her fear dissolved.
Anna’s DBS surgery lasted 5 hours – most of the time she was awake. Afterwards, Anna remembers feeling sore in her chest where the neurostimulator was implanted, and in her neck, where the leads to her head were placed.
When her DBS system was turned on a week after surgery, she and her husband noticed a change immediately. “I was walking, my tremors were gone, and I could drive again!”
Over the next few months, Anna went to follow-up visits to have her stimulation adjusted. “They don’t want to raise it too fast or too high. That took some patience on my part.”
Around the same time, Anna was diagnosed with MRSA infection in one of the incisions in her scalp. After antibiotics didn’t work, doctors had to remove a neurostimulator and lead to get rid of the infection. Five months later, Anna was clear of the infection and had the system replaced on her right side.
Implanting DBS Therapy carries the same risks associated with any other brain surgery. This may include serious complications such as coma, bleeding inside the brain, seizures, and infection. Some of these may be fatal. Once implanted, the system may become infected, parts may wear through your skin, and the lead or lead/extension connector may move. Medtronic DBS Therapy could stop suddenly because of mechanical or electrical problems. Any of these situations may require additional surgery or cause your symptoms to return.
Medtronic DBS Therapy may cause worsening of some motor symptoms associated with your movement disorder, and may cause speech and language impairments. The stimulation may be adjusted to minimize side effects and achieve maximum control of your symptoms. In patients receiving Medtronic DBS Therapy, depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide have been reported. Occurrence of falls has also been reported in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
“With both my neurostimulators in and working, I was getting back my old life. I had no tremor, I could do stairs, and just about everything for myself.” After 4 years the initial effects had not diminished. “Sure, I have bad days, especially if I’m stressed. I know I have to get more rest or increase my medications. But overall I’m still free and happy. DBS doesn’t make things exactly like they used to be but it gives you a new life. It makes things possible.”