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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Essential Tremor and Deep Brain Stimulation

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What Happens During Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery?

Using CT or MRI scans, surgeons will target areas for placement of the electrodes. Some doctors may use an electrode-recording technique to map and target the specific areas in the brain they will need to reach.

Once the correct location is identified, the permanent electrodes are implanted in the brain. The loose ends are placed underneath the skin of the head and the incision is closed with sutures.  The wires are attached to a small impulse generator, about the size of a pacemaker, that is placed under the skin on the upper chest. Two to four weeks later, the IPG is turned on and adjusted. It may take a few weeks until the stimulators and medications are adjusted before a person gets relief from symptoms. 

What Are the Risks of Deep Brain Stimulation?

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks of deep brain stimulation. There is a small risk of a serious and permanent complication such as paralysis, seizures, infection, and changes in thinking, memory and personality. Discuss these risks with your doctor.

Will I Be Asleep During Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery?

You will remain awake but in a type of "twilight" zone during most of deep brain stimulation surgery. This allows the surgical team to interact with you when testing the effects of the stimulation. Small amounts of local anesthetic (pain-relieving medication) are given in sensitive areas. The vast majority of people experience minimal discomfort during the procedure.

What Should I Expect After Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery?

After deep brain stimulation surgery, you may feel tired and sore but will be given medication to keep you comfortable. Also, you may have irritation or soreness around the stitches and pin sites.

As with any surgery, there are some guidelines and limitations that you should follow after DBS. Be sure to discuss these with your doctor and ask questions before surgery. Understanding what you will be experiencing and knowing what to expect afterward can help ease some of the natural anxiety that comes with any medical procedure.

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