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Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) uses mild electrical pulses to stimulate a precisely targeted area of the brain.

DBS works by ‘stunning’ the target area, which blocks abnormal nerve signals.

What is Deep Brain Stimulation?

With a Deep brain stimulation surgery, electrodes that can generate electrical signals are implanted to send signals to parts of the brain affected by Parkinson’s.

Cardinal Parkinson’s symptoms, such as tremors, slowness of movement, and stiffness of joints, can be reduced through DBS.

Unlike most invasive brain procedures, however, DBS is reversible!


How Does Deep Brain Stimulation Work?

Electrodes are strategically placed on specific parts of the brain to treat Parkinsonism symptoms.

Tiny holes are drilled on the skull of the patient to insert the electrodes deep within the brain (hence the DBS name).

Long wires are placed right underneath the skin, to connect these electrodes to a neurostimulator device.

Much like a pacemaker for a cardiac patient, this device is used to employ electric signals to moderate brain activity.

The neurotransmitter is battery-powered, lasting for anywhere between 2 to 6 years before needing to be replaced.

Parkinson’s symptoms, such as tremors and muscle rigidity, are caused mainly by faulty nerve signals arising from brain cell damage.

The DBS neurotransmitter, however, will block these signals to reduce these symptoms.

The average reduction in the medication of people who have had DBS is 30% to 40%.


Who Can Have DBS Surgery?

If you have worsening Parkinson’s symptoms and your medications are not effective enough, then you may be recommended to have the DBS procedure done.

However, DBS will not be recommended in some instances.

These include scenarios where the Parkinson’s patient has severe depression, advanced forms of dementia, or have symptoms that are not typically associated with Parkinson’s disease.


What Happens After DBS Surgery?

After you have DBS surgery, you may experience slight brain swelling around the portion where the electrode was inserted into the skull. 

The swelling typically will subside in a few days to a couple of weeks.

Most people who have DBS surgery are discharged in about a day.


Risks of Deep Brain Stimulation

As with any medical procedure, there are genuine risks of getting the DBS procedure done.

General risks are seizures, infections, blood clots, excessive bleeding, and anesthesia reactions.

There is a risk that DBS may lead to speech and balance-related afflictions from Parkinson’s to worsen.

DBS can also worsen depression in some people with Parkinson’s.


Life After DBS Surgery

Once the neurotransmitter has been programmed, you are given a handheld controller to make adjustments. 

With the controller, you can turn the simulator on or off, select the signal strength, and move across different program types.

If your DBS neurotransmitter has a rechargeable battery, then it will take about two hours for the device to recharge completely.

Make sure to carry your Implanted Device Identification (IDI) card if you are traveling by air, as Airport Security will detect the device.


Deep Brain Stimulation in NZ

In New Zealand, DBS surgery is only carried out on a small number (less than 20) patients each year!

This is because there are only certain patients in whom it will work satisfactorily.

The majority of these people have Parkinson’s, although DBS is also used to treat some other conditions.


How can Parkinson’s New Zealand help?

Parkinson's New Zealand offers information and professional support to people living with Parkinson’s. Our team of Parkinson’s Community Educators can provide home visits for personalised sessions. 

Community Educators work closely with the person with Parkinson’s and their carers to develop a medical plan that upholds their health and lifestyle. Community Educators liaise with health professionals that treat Parkinson’s in the community, including speech-language therapists, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists.

Parkinson’s New Zealand also has support groups for members for sharing their coping strategies, experiences, and is a chance to establish social networks. Programs for people with Parkinson’s include exercise, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, and art or music therapy sessions.


Get in Touch

If you’d like to contact our charity and avail of this free service, then give us a call on 04 801 8850 today!

If you’d like to show your support to the service we provide to people with Parkinson’s, then please visit our donation page.

To find out who to contact and what services are available in your area, head over to our Regional Support.