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The ABC's of DBS

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A Guide to Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson's

Deep brain stimulation is a powerful treatment option for early stage Parkinson’s disease. As symptoms progress and become increasingly difficult to manage, deep brain stimulation (DBS) can reduce medication and minimize side effects.

While the idea of surgery for early stage Parkinson’s may seem overly aggressive or unnecessary when motor function remains good enough to get by, DBS is a long-term, low medication solution for when symptoms escalate. Rather than letting patients adapt to their worsening symptoms as the disease progresses, DBS is adjustable to treat symptoms as they change over time.

If you or someone you love is suffering from early onset Parkinson’s, deep brain stimulation could be the breakthrough treatment you need.

Who?

DBS treatment for Parkinson’s disease (PD) is appropriate for patients depending on:

  • Symptom responsiveness for other PD medications such as levodopa 
  • Side effects of PD meds like motor fluctuations and dyskinesias
  • Significant cognitive problems determined by formal neuropsychological testing
  • Significant medical illnesses

A small subset of patients with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease who have shown themselves to be intolerant to PD meds may also respond well to DBS.

When?

Early intervention is highly recommended when considering DBS for Parkinson’s. If the disease is progressing past pharmacologic treatment and motor symptoms are difficult to manage, it may be an appropriate time for DBS.

Where?

DBS treatment is best performed at a Parkinson’s center with considerable experience successfully implanting DBS. Good outcomes with DBS for Parkinson’s are correlated with optimally placed electrodes mapped during surgery for precise localization. An experienced team of neurophysiologists and programmers can ensure well-placed and well-programmed DBS.

Why?

The decision to proceed with DBS usually depends on when symptoms can no longer be adequately controlled by medication. Earlier intervention and younger patients show the most dramatic benefits, mirroring the response of l-dopa without the side effects.

DBS is particularly suited to treat:

  • Tremor 
  • Bradykinesia
  • Rigidity
  • Dyskinesias
  • Motor fluctuations

Additional advantages include:

  • Adjustment to symptoms so benefits can last for years
  • Removal at any time with no consequences or brain tissue damage
  • Decrease in dose of other PD medications

DBS also presents relatively small risks of hemorrhage, stroke and infection. Before choosing DBS, you may also want to consider cosmetic or hardware concerns.

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