Mark Liker, M.D.
Director of the USC Neurosurgery
Deep Brain Stimulation Program
Many patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD), essential tremor, dystonia and other movement conditions can suffer from troublesome or even disabling symptoms despite the use of otherwise helpful medications. For these patients, surgical intervention such as deep brain stimulation (DBS) may offer an alternative treatment.
DBS uses an implanted electrode, which is surgically inserted into the desired target area of the brain and fixed at the skull. This electrode placement is performed under local anesthesia. Continuous, high frequency electrical stimulation, similar to a heart pacemaker, is then delivered to either the thalamus, globus pallidus (GPi) or to the subthalamic nucleus (STN) – all parts of the brain that control movement. Although the basic mechanisms of DBS are not well understood, it is believed that these electrical impulses can help to interfere with and block the brain’s abnormal electrical signals that cause uncontrollable movements associated with these diseases.
For some patients who have had the system implanted, DBS has helped to alleviate symptoms, improve their ability to participate in every-day life activities and regain some control of their life.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are the benefits of Deep Brain Stimulation?
- DBS does not damage healthy brain tissue by destroying nerve cells. Instead, it simply blocks their electrical signals. As such, the procedure can be reversed should more advanced treatment alternatives be developed in the future.
- After DBS surgery, some patient’s may find their medication dosage can be reduced significantly while still maintaining normal functioning.
- The stimulating electrodes and parameters (frequency of stimulation, pulse width and voltage) can be adjusted and customized to the needs of individual patients and their symptoms.
What are the risks of Deep Brain Stimulation?
In addition to standard surgical risks, other risks may include temporary weakness in the limbs, possible changes in cognitive function, or infection at the site of implantation.
Which patients may be good candidates for Deep Brain Stimulation?
- DBS should be appropriate for patients with severe Parkinson’s disease who are not achieving satisfactory control of their symptoms despite optimal medications
- DBS is indicated for disabling essential tremor and certain forms of dystonia
Where may patients be referred for DBS?
For more information or for a physician referral, please call 1-888-700-5700.