Deep Brain Stimulation
The shaking and involuntary movements of Parkinson's disease and essential tremor can make everyday activities nearly impossible. One technology used to control tremors and shaking is deep brain stimulation, or DBS. We are one of only a few hospitals in the nation offering DBS using an iOS-compatible technology that can help people with movement disorders.
When you choose The University of Kansas Health System for DBS, you will receive comprehensive care from a team of specialists, beginning with diagnosis through surgery and follow-up care. Our interdisciplinary approach is unique to this region.
What is deep brain stimulation?
Often referred to as a "pacemaker for the brain," deep brain stimulation uses a small pulse generator to deliver electrical signals to wires or leads placed in the areas of the brain causing symptoms.
DBS was introduced in the late 1990s, but it had limitations. The newest generation, the St. Jude Medical Infinity™ Deep Brain Stimulation System, allows you to control tremors with the tap of a button on an iOS device. We are one of the few academic heath systems to offer the Infinity treatment and have provided it to people in Kansas City since November 2016.
Who can have deep brain stimulation?
Good candidates for DBS are people with Parkinson's disease or essential tremor who have been on medication for 8-10 years and are experiencing the ups and downs of constant medication adjustments without consistent symptom control.
Deep brain stimulation is meant to complement, not replace, existing medications. DBS can improve the medication's results, so it works more predictably and has fewer side effects.
How does deep brain stimulation work?
DBS provides electrical stimulation to a specific part of the brain to relieve symptoms of Parkinson's disease and essential tremor. This is accomplished through electronic neurostimulators, connected to electrodes implanted in the brain, which block or alter brain signals that cause the disabling symptoms.
After the initial surgery, our team of specialists works with you to program the neurostimulators and provide optimal symptom control.
Benefits and risks of deep brain stimulation
While not a cure, DBS can improve your quality of life significantly, allowing you to perform daily activities such as dressing, eating and walking without assistance. Some people may be able to continue working and reduce their medications.
DBS is reversible and does not destroy brain tissue. The electrodes and neurostimulators can be removed at any time. In addition, the new technology is better than previous versions in 2 ways:
- It's more precise, and it's programmable by an Apple iPad or iPod Touch. You can turn it on and off and adjust it yourself.
- Older DBS devices included only 4 contacts in the brain. The new one has 8. That means the surgeon can place and control the contacts more precisely.
The system's software can also be upgraded as new technologies become available, without additional surgery.
What happens during deep brain stimulation?
The DBS device is placed during surgery. Surgeons put the pulse generator in the chest cavity and position wires, or leads, in specific areas of the brain that control movement. About a month later, you will return to your doctor for wireless programming. Monthly visits continue so doctors can check and adjust programming as needed. You can then turn the device on and off and make adjustments directly, using an iPad or iTouch.
Why choose us for deep brain stimulation
Our neurosurgeons were pioneers in the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS) for the treatment of Parkinson's disease and essential tremor. With more than 1,000 DBS surgeries in the last 5 years alone, we are one of the top implanters of DBS in the nation with clinical care teams that specialize in this treatment.