Clinical Neurosciences Center

DBS: A Ray of Hope

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) provides relief to patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, dystonia, and other movement disorders. Beyond decreasing tremors associated with these conditions, DBS lessens the severity of pain and other symptoms to improve overall function.

During a DBS procedure, a neurosurgeon, guided by magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scanning, implants a neurostimulator about the size of a stopwatch to provide electrical stimulation to targeted areas of the brain.

“Since 1997, DBS has been restoring function to patients coping with essential tremor,” says Paul House, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at The University of Utah. “Most patients who undergo the treatment experience a 99 percent increase in function.”

Perfect for Parkinson’s Disease
Although symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary greatly in the way they manifest in patients,
DBS electrode stimulation of the motor thalamus, subthalamus, and the internal segment of the globus pallidus has proven generally effective at decreasing tremor, improving motor function, and reducing dyskinesias. This treatment works by interfering with the electrical signals that cause the movement disorder symptoms.

“Parkinson’s disease patients, through DBS, can dramatically reduce their medications and still see a decrease in their symptoms,” says Dr. House. “In addition, most enjoy improved movement speed and, because of the reduction in medication intake, experience fewer overall side effects.”

How it works
Prior to the procedure, the surgeon uses an imaging scan to determine the exact placement of the DBS system, which consists of three elements: the lead, the electrode, and the neurostimulator.

The lead enters the brain through a small hole in the skull, and is implanted to position the tip of the electrode so it touches the targeted area of the brain. The insulated wire extension is implanted under the skin, often near the collarbone, and used to send electrical impulses from the neurostimulator to the brain.

“DBS has been widely used to treat neurological movement disorders,” says William Couldwell, MD, PhD, Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at The University of Utah. “Greater possibilities are on the horizon, however—DBS may also be used in the treatment of depression, psychological disorders, and even obesity.”

The DBS system is reversible and adjustable, and does not damage tissue or destroy nerve cells.

Download more information here.

Questions? Contact a movement disorders expert at the Clinical Neurosciences Center at The University of Utah by calling 801-585-7575 or contact Neurosciences Public Affairs at 801-585-7777.