Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep Brain Stimulation Program

The Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) offers comprehensive medical and surgical care for the treatment of movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, Essential Tremor (ET), Dystonia, and certain psychiatric disorders. These disorders affect millions of people, and the aim of our deep brain stimulation program is to help our patients feel better by using the most appropriate and up-to-date treatment methods available.

The Deep Brain Stimulation Program is comprised of cutting edge techniques and caring providers who are knowledgeable about your condition. Our multi-disciplinary team can optimize your medications and, when appropriate, recommend surgical treatment options. If a deep brain stimulation procedure becomes a viable treatment option for your disorder, you will meet with specialists from each division of our team before being discussed by the Deep Brain Stimulation Surgical Planning Committee and our Deep Brain Stimulation Steering Committee. These committees comprise the top movement disorder neurologists, functional neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, and neuropsychologists in the United States. The goals of the committees are to establish your readiness for surgery, discuss optimal surgical targeting, and maintain a close relationship with your referring physician.

Brigham and Women's Hospital is the only hospital in New England that has the capability to do both awake and asleep deep brain stimulation procedures. The appropriate option for you is determined by your condition and your BWH care team.

Prepare for Your Visit

To help you better understand what to expect at your medical and surgical visits, read the patient education materials.

Learn more about DBS in our video library

Dr. Michael Fox discusses DBS for Parkinson's Disease (Sept 2023)

Movement Disorders Care and Treatment (2016)

Parkinson's Disease and Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Explained (2022)

What is deep brain stimulation (DBS)?

DBS is a neurosurgical intervention to apply brain stimulation treatment for patients whose neurological or psychiatric symptoms are not ideally controlled by routine treatments like medications and therapy. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared DBS for the following indications:

  • Essential Tremor (1997)
  • Parkinson’s Disease (2002)
  • Dystonia (Humanitarian Device Exception, 2003)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder (Humanitarian Device Exception, 2009)
  • Epilepsy (2018)

This page will provide examples primarily from Parkinson’s Disease, the illness most commonly treated with DBS, but we offer DBS for all of the above indications.

Why should I consider DBS?

For many patients, symptoms of the above disorders respond well to medication. However, not all symptoms respond to medication and the beneficial effects of medication can wane over time. For example, patients with Parkinson’s Disease may experience tremor that responds poorly to medication, develop fluctuations in how well medications control their symptoms, experience sudden “off states” in which medication seems to stop working, or develop increased movements in the form of dyskinesias. DBS is an effective treatment for each of these symptoms.

It is important to note that some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (such as tremor, bradykinesia and rigidity) can be treated much better with DBS than others (such as gait problems, cognitive decline, autonomic symptoms or states of depression). It is also important to note, that DBS can improve symptoms, but it is not a cure and does not lead to a slowing of the progression of Parkinson’s Disease. An ideal candidate for DBS is a patient who is bothered by symptoms that DBS is good at treating, and only minimally bothered by symptoms that DBS is not good at treating.

How do I determine if DBS is right for me?

Patients should ask their doctor if DBS might be an option based on their diagnosis and symptoms. However, not all doctors are familiar with DBS, and patients can ask for a referral to a DBS specialist or request an appointment themselves. Note that it is estimated that only 1 out of 10 patients who could benefit from DBS are ever referred to a DBS specialist for evaluation.

Click here to find a DBS specialist.

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