Deep Brain Stimulation refers to a medical procedure that involves the placement of an electrode into the brain. Electrical current is delivered to a specific target in order to provide relief for a growing number of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, essential/inherited tremor, epilepsy. It is being investigated for a growing number of other applications, such as cluster headaches, Tourette’s syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The relief provided by DBS can be profound, especially for people with tremor (inherited or Parkinsonian). The standard Parkinson’s drugs, especially levodopa, become less effective over time. A DBS system can relieve the symptoms that are controlled by levodopa and other drugs, without the nasty side effects. The most problematic include dyskinesia — the uncontrollable, writhing muscle movements that many people associate with Parkinson’s — as well as non-motor problems with cognition, mood, behavior, and digestive system issues..
The DBS system has three components: the lead, which is inserted into the brain; a pulse generator and battery, which is placed in the chest; and an extension wire that is threaded under the skin of the chest and neck up to the top of the head, to a capped burr hole just behind the hairline.
The biggest procedural risks are infection, which for safety reasons would require removal of the implant; and hemorrhage/stroke caused by hitting a blood vessel. Risk level generally increases with age and the presence of other health problems.