Infinity™ Deep Brain Stimulation System

The Infinity Deep Brain Stimulation System is an iOS-compatible device that is implanted in the brain to help people with conditions such as Parkinson's disease and essential tremor stop shaking. It is best for people whose medications have become less effective over time. While it doesn't cure the disease or stop its progression, it can make a big difference in quality of life.

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A modern treatment

Imagine how difficult life would be if your hands, arms, legs, jaw or face shook uncontrollably. If you couldn't move quickly. If your balance and coordination were impaired. These are the difficulties faced by nearly 11 million U.S. people who suffer from Parkinson's disease and essential tremor.

Shaking and involuntary movement can make everyday activities such as dressing, bathing, eating, walking and even thinking nearly impossible. Treatment for Parkinson's disease often includes medications, but they tend to lose effectiveness over time and require larger and more frequent doses. Higher doses can cause a number of unwanted side effects.

Standard treatment gets an upgrade

One technology used to control tremors and shaking is deep brain stimulation (DBS). Often referred to as a "pacemaker for the brain," DBS 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 patients to control their tremors with the tap of a button on an iOS device. The system was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is currently in use at a handful of hospitals across the country. We are one of few academic medical centers to offer the Infinity treatment and have provided it to patients in Kansas City since November 2016.

Benefits of Infinity for DBS

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. Patients can turn it on and off and adjust it themselves.
  • 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.

"With the older device, we had fewer options for programming," says Dr. Pahwa. "So if we pushed power to one contact, we would get too much power there and cause side effects. Now, we can be much more precise in placement and programming to control just the right areas for each patient's unique condition."

The system's software can also be upgraded as new technologies become available, without additional surgery for the patient.

A complement to medication

Good candidates for DBS are patients 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. The device is meant to complement, not replace, existing medications and can improve the medication's results, so it works more predictably and has fewer side effects.

What to expect

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.

Improved quality of life

Although DBS can control symptoms of Parkinson's disease and essential tremor, the technology does not cure the conditions or stop their progression. However, it can greatly impact quality of life.

"Patients can do a lot more than they could before," Dr. Pahwa says. "There's no more rollercoaster. Their lifestyle becomes more predictable." 

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Turning Point offers free classes, programs and tools designed to empower and educate people affected by chronic or serious illness.

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