Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects movement. Individuals with Parkinson’s experience slowed gait, tremor in the hands, fixed facial expression and slurred speech. Symptoms gradually become worse over time. A number of medications are used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but these drugs may not be effective for all patients or may have troublesome side effects. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure that has helped many Parkinson’s patients manage their symptoms effectively, reducing their need for medication. It targets specific areas of the brain, without causing damage to healthy brain tissue. The procedure involves making a small hole in the cranium to insert an electrode, which helps to eliminate fluctuations in mobility and tremor and provide a better quality of life for Parkinson’s patients.
On the day of surgery, the individual’s head is positioned in a frame to reduce movement, and an MRI is done to record images of the brain to calculate the exact position for the placement of the electrode. The target for the electrode is generally the thalamus, the subthalamic nucleus or a part of the globus pallidus in the brain. The patient is anesthetized and a 1.5-centimeter hole is made in the cranium, so the electrode can be placed in the target area. An insulated wire is connected to the electrode, which runs under the skin from the head, neck and shoulder to a “neurostimulator” power pack that is implanted under the skin of the chest. At different times during the surgery, the patient may be painlessly brought back to consciousness to monitor progress. After surgery, patients must stay in the hospital for a short time to ensure that incisions are healing properly. In a few weeks, patients must return to the hospital for programming of the DBS device. Frequent adjustments may be necessary within the first three months after surgery. In addition, periodic follow-up visits are necessary to ensure the device is functioning properly and that programming is appropriate for the patient’s needs.