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Parkinson's Disease Health Center

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Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson's Disease

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What Is Subthalamic Nucleus Deep Brain Stimulation?

After extensive clinical trials, stimulation of the part of the brain called the subthalamic nucleus has been recognized as the most effective surgical treatment treatment for the bradykinesia associated with Parkinson’s disease, addressing not only tremors, but the full range of the disease's symptoms, including: rigidity, slowness of movement, stiffness, and walking concerns.

Successful stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus allows patients to consistently reduce their medication while improving all of their other disease-related symptoms.

What Are the Advantages of Deep Brain Stimulation?

Deep brain stimulation has many advantages.

  • First, it does not require purposeful destruction of any part of the brain and therefore, has fewer complications than thalamotomy and pallidotomy.
  • In addition, the electrical stimulation is adjustable and can be changed as the person's disease changes or his or her response to medications change. No further surgery is necessary to make the adjustments.
  • Another significant advantage of deep brain stimulation relates to future treatments. Destructive surgery, such as thalamotomy or pallidotomy, may reduce the person's potential to benefit from future therapies. For example, future brain cell transplantation may be of great help to people with Parkinson's disease. There is concern that a pallidotomy or thalamotomy may prevent patients from benefiting from brain cell transplantation. This would not be the case with deep brain stimulation, as the stimulator could be turned off.
  • Deep brain stimulation is a relatively safe procedure.
  • The procedure can treat all the major symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
  • Daily living tasks and quality of life are also improved.
  • With subthalamic nucleus stimulation, medications can usually be reduced.
  • The stimulator can also be turned off at any time if deep brain stimulation is causing excessive side effects.

Possible Disadvantages:

  • A small increased risk of infection. The implantation of any foreign object in the body carries that risk.
  • Additional surgery may be needed if the equipment stops working or for battery replacement.
  • Additional time on the part of the patient and health care provider to program device and adjust medications.

How Effective Is Deep Brain Stimulation?

With deep brain stimulation, the vast majority of people (over 70%) experience a significant improvement of all their symptoms related to Parkinson's disease. Most people are able to significantly reduce their medications.

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