Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

Deep Brain Stimulation, also known as DBS, is a surgical treatment to dystonia in which electrodes are strategically implanted into the patient’s brain, connected by a wire to a regulating device placed under the skin in their chest. The regulating device sends electrical impulses into brain tissue, altering how it behaves to certain chemicals and stimuli. In a majority of cases, DBS reduces dystonic symptoms in a way that greatly impacts quality of life.

Initially used as a technique to locate areas of the brain for surgical lesion, DBS evolved into its own category of treatment in the late 1960s and early 70s, with present day techniques first utilized successfully in 1991. It has risen in popularity in the last 25+ years with its strong track record of helping patients and in parallel to swift advancements in surgical safety and general reliability.

Exact electrode location and impulse tuning patient-specific. A pre-surgery MRI helps to inform doctors on where to place leads. A patient’s conscious responses and reactions during surgery are also monitored to confirm correct placement and successful symptom reduction in real-time.

It is a generally safe procedure and treatment, even offering some flexibility by way of the pacemaker-like device that can be monitored and manipulated by a handheld controller to adjust impulse level and frequency. This remote control is used to fine-tune the treatment, with the intention of providing maximum comfort for the user.

Both facets of the surgery, like any, come with risks and possible side-effects. As an invasive surgical treatment, DBS is recommended only for patients who have exhausted most other options, including medication, physical therapy, and alternative wellness practices.

DBS and its effects on the brain are still being studied, its technology still being perfected. It is, though, routinely successfully deployed in the treatment of other neurological conditions, too, like Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and essential tremor. In recent years, it’s been utilized as an experimental treatment of an expanded list of conditions that includes OCD, tourette syndrome, depression, addiction, and dementia.