Closer Look at the DBS Surgery

A neurosurgeon will implant the DBS system in two steps. First, he or she will place the thin wires (leads) that will carry electrical signals to precise areas of your brain. Second, the surgeon will place the small pacemaker-like device, or neurostimulator, under the skin of your chest.


YOUR SURGICAL TEAM

Your neurologist will refer you to a neurosurgeon who has special training and experience in implanting DBS systems. The neurosurgeon and staff will provide information about the surgery and answer your questions.

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Medtronic DBS System

Very thin wires called leads deliver electrical signals from the neurostimulator to the brain.

The neurostimulator creates the electrical pulses that help control movement symptoms of Parkinson's, including tremor, slowed movement, and stiffness.

Your doctor will use a programming device to adjust the settings.

You may have a device, similar to a remote control, which allows you to turn the system on and off and check the battery. You may also be able to adjust the stimulation within options programmed by your doctor.

Medtronic DBS System

BEFORE THE PROCEDURE: IMAGING AND MAPPING

You will have an MRI or CT scan to provide your surgeon with images and maps of your brain. Your doctor may attach a frame, or halo, to your head to help hold it steady during the scan.

Your doctor will use these images to calculate 3-dimensional coordinates of brain locations for lead placement.


PLACING THE LEADS

Your neurosurgeon will place the leads first, guided by the images and maps of your brain. For this part of the surgery, you will be awake so you can confirm that the leads are placed in the best location to control your movement symptoms. Though you will be awake, you will not feel pain.

The surgeon may ask you to move your arms or legs, tap your fingers, move your hands, or pretend to drink from a cup, then stimulates an area of the brain to test results.


IMPLANTING THE NEUROSTIMULATOR

The neurostimulator may be placed at this time, or on a different day. For this part of the surgery, you will be under general anesthesia.

After checking that the leads are properly positioned, your surgeon will place the neurostimulator under the skin of your chest, just below the collarbone. Then your surgeon will connect the leads to the neurostimulator using extensions that run under the skin from the chest to your neck and head.


AFTER SURGERY

Most people spend a couple of days at the hospital. Healing can take several weeks. You will have pain medications for any discomfort you may have at the incision sites.

While healing, avoid strenuous activities and heavy lifting. Don't raise your arms above your shoulders, and don't bend or stretch your neck excessively. As always follow your doctor's instructions.

Your doctor will help you decide when you're ready to return to activities and will turn your device on at your first programming session.

WATCH THE STORY OF A DOCTOR WHO HAS DBS—INCLUDING WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE AWAKE DURING THE SURGERY.

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RISKS OF THE SURGERY

DBS Therapy requires brain surgery. Risks of brain surgery 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.

Talk to your doctor about the risks that may be applicable to your specific situation.

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