Skip to main content

Why Choose University of Utah Health for Psychiatric Neurosurgery?

To be evaluated for eligibility, please fill out our patient screening form.

The Psychiatric Neurosurgery Program at University of Utah Health combines high-quality, personalized clinical care, leading-edge technology, and a patient-centered approach to studying and providing surgical solutions for severe neuropsychiatric disorders that are resistant to all other forms of treatment. It is a collaborative, multidisciplinary effort between the University of Utah Department of Neurosurgery and the Department of Psychiatry and Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI).

Our unique integration of psychiatric and neurosurgical services allows us to offer innovative treatments that are customized to you and your individual needs. We are the only hospital in the Mountain West offering surgical procedures for treatment-resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression.

Our goal is to help improve the function and quality of life for people living with severe, treatment-resistant mental health disorders. Our extensive research program and integrated team of medical professionals are at the forefront of research and work together to provide patients with the most advanced level of clinical care.

Surgery Options for Depression & OCD: Eligibility Criteria

We currently offer surgical treatment for treatment-resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder and treatment-resistant depression. You must meet all of the following requirements to be considered for these procedures:

  • You have suffered from treatment-resistant OCD or treatment-resistant depression for more than five years.
  • You must have undergone all standard treatments (such as medication and behavioral therapy) with no improvement.

To determine your eligibility, you will need to undergo a mental health assessment performed by our dedicated psychiatric team at HMHI Treatment Resistant Mood Disorders Clinic. To inquire about an initial evaluation for eligibility, please contact the Treatment Resistant Mood Disorders Clinic at 801-587-3297.

What to Expect during Your Mental Health Assessment

After you are screened for eligibility by our neurosurgery team, you will meet with a psychiatrist from HMHI who will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of your current symptoms and mental health history, including previous treatments. We will also use questionnaires to assess your current state of mind. This evaluation will take about two hours.

If we need more information about your condition, we will use lab tests, genetic testing, and brain imaging scans. After the evaluation is complete, our psychiatrists and neurosurgeons will meet to determine the best form of treatment moving forward.

Our Psychiatric Neurosurgery Team

Types of Neurosurgery for Neuropsychiatric Disorders

OCD Brain Surgery Treatment Options

Surgery for treatment-resistant OCD has been FDA-approved for for more than 10 years and is covered by most insurance carriers. We currently offer the following treatments:

  • Deep Brain StimulationAn implanted device delivers an electrical current directly to areas of the brain causing OCD. These pulse currents will inactivate those parts of your brain without destroying them. Your psychiatrist will fine-tune the device settings to find what works best for you.
  • Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy (LITT Capsulotomy)/Laser AblationLITT is a minimally invasive technique that uses lasers to target and destroy the brain cells that cause OCD symptoms.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS Therapy) for Treatment-Resistant Depression

During vagus nerve stimulation, your neurosurgeon will implant a device that delivers mild, intermittently pulsed signals to the vagus nerve in your neck to change the way various parts of the brain that are associated with depression symptoms. 

We also offer enrollment in clinical trials for treatment-resistant depression, if you’re eligible.

Benefits & Risks

Patients may see benefits, such as:

  • significant reduction in symptoms,
  • increased quality of life,
  • better response to psychiatric medication, and
  • better response to psychological-behavioral treatment.

Because these are surgical procedures, there are some possible complications and risks, which may include:

  • temporary pain and swelling at the implantation site,
  • injury to the brain or a blood vessel,
  • no response to therapy, or
  • infections.


Most people will need to stay in the hospital for one day after deep brain stimulation surgery to implant the electrodes in their brain. VNS therapy and laser ablation therapy are outpatient procedures, which allow you to go home the same day. 

Follow-Up Care

You will have a follow-up appointment with your neurosurgeon and psychiatrist two to four weeks after surgery to have your DBS or VNS device programmed to deliver the right amount of electrical stimulation for you and your symptoms. Multiple programming sessions are often required.

We may schedule you for another follow-up up to six months post-op, depending on your recovery progress. Your psychiatric neurosurgery team will continue to follow up with you to manage your device and therapy.

Procedure Success Rate

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) have been shown to provide effective treatment in patients with treatment-resistant psychiatric conditions. However, success rates will vary depending on your specific condition.

Surgical treatments for treatment-resistant OCD have shown to be effective in 60-70% of patients. This means there was at least a 35% reduction in disease severity, allowing these patients to go back to their active life and work. Brain surgery procedures for treatment-resistant depression are currently done in clinical trial settings. Results will vary depending on the specific trial.

How to Request an Evaluation

To be evaluated for eligibility, you will need to:

  • fill out our new patient screening form and
  • get a detailed referral letter that includes all your previous treatments from your primary care provider or another specialist.

Once we receive these documents, our psychiatric neurosurgery team will reach out to help you determine whether surgery is an appropriate treatment for you.