What to Expect

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Center for Neurologic Restoration

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Deep brain stimulation (DBS) requires several steps that are completed over about 10 to 16 weeks.

Complications and side effects from these DBS procedures are rare.

Your DBS team will include a movement disorders neurologist and neurosurgeon. It may also include some combination of: psychiatrist, neuropsychologist, nurse practitioners and physician assistant.

Once your team determines that you are a good candidate for DBS, our scheduler will contact you to settle on the best time for your procedure.

Step 1. Surgery to implant the lead(s)

For maximum infection control, your head will be shaved before sugary. Shaving the entire head will allow your hair to grow back more evenly.

For the surgery:

  • You will be given a mild sedative to relax you and a local anesthetic to numb the site.
  • You will be awake at times so you are able to follow a few simple instructions and answer questions while we test the leads.
  • A tiny wire will be inserted into the area of the brain that controls abnormal movements. (If both sides of the brain are to be treated, a second wire will be inserted during a separate procedure one to two months after the first one.)

After surgery, you will be transferred to our neuro-intensive care unit (Neuro ICU) and closely monitored for 24 hours.

Most patients go home after their 24-hour Neuro-ICU stay. Occasionally we recommend a patient remain in the hospital for an additional day.

Step 2. Surgery to implant the battery

Usually seven to 10 days after the leads are implanted, surgery is done to implant one or two batteries. These are also called pulse generators or neurostimulators. The battery is similar in size and shape to a heart pacemaker.

For the surgery:

  • You will be given general anesthesia will be completely asleep during the procedure.
  • The battery is implanted under the skin, just below your collar bone and connected to the implanted leads. If two batteries are used, they are implanted in similar locations on either side.
  • If you already have a heart pacemaker, the DBS battery will be implanted on the opposite side.

Most patients are able to go home the same day as the procedure. Our nurses will give you instructions on how to take care of the incision.

The entire system is hidden beneath your skin, but you may notice a low bump where the battery is located.

Step 3. Programming the battery

Our scheduler will make a clinic appointment for you for about two to three weeks after we implant the batteries.

During this appointment, the system is activated. It will deliver mild electrical pulses to your brain. These pulses will modify the brain’s electrical signals that cause abnormal movements.

You will receive a hand-held remote control and directions about turning your system on and off. We also will give you a telephone number to call in case you have any questions or concerns.

Step 4. Follow-up adjustments and evaluations

Your system will require adjustments during the next few weeks to several months to ensure you are receiving the best benefit possible. You also may still need medication during this time.

We will closely monitor your progress to determine if DBS is meeting your personal goals and expectations, and we will schedule appointments as necessary.

Possible complications and side effects

Complications and side effects are rare. Nearly 100% of our patients experience no long-term side effects or complications.

A few patients have experienced minor, treatable complications to the surgery, such as:

  • Infection at an incision site or around the battery
  • Minor bleeding
  • Swelling around the implanted hardware

Some patients have experienced mild side effects that are reduced or eliminated by adjusting the amount of stimulation. These reversible side effects may include:

  • Slight tingling sensation of the face, arms or legs
  • Dizziness
  • A heavy or tight feeling in the arms or legs
  • Slurred speech
  • Double vision

Please view our DBS Patient Resource Guide for more detailed information regarding Deep Brain Stimulation surgery at Swedish Medical Center.

For a physician referral, or an appointment for an evaluation, call the Deep Brain Stimulation Program at 206-320-2847.