Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson's Disease

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure for Parkinson's disease treatment. Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disease that leads to tremors and difficulties with walking, balance, and coordination.

What Is Deep Brain Stimulation?

During deep brain stimulation, a device called a neurostimulator, which functions similarly to a heart pacemaker, is implanted just under the skin in the upper chest. Attached to the neurostimulator is a small electrode that is placed in an area deep in the brain that is instrumental in controlling the body’s movements. Safe electrical pulses are then sent to control the flow of information through that area of the brain, thereby helping to decrease symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

This procedure is typically offered to patients who have advanced Parkinson’s disease, whose symptoms cannot be well-controlled with medications, or whose medications produce severe side effects. DBS is believed to be safer than other forms of surgery for Parkinson’s disease, like thalamotomy and pallidotomy and can be performed even if patients have already undergone these older forms of surgical treatment. Most patients will continue to use medications after undergoing deep brain stimulation, but all patients experience a significant reduction in Parkinson’s symptoms.

Deep Brain Stimulation Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The Movement Disorder Center at BWH is one of only a few centers in New England that provide deep brain stimulation therapy. Neurosurgeons and neurologists work together as part of a multidisciplinary team of specialists in the Center to evaluate patients and perform DBS surgery.

Before implanting the device, the surgical team uses detailed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to target precise locations for each part of the DBS system. During the surgical procedure, the system is tested to ensure that symptoms are being improved and that other functions, such as language, aren’t being harmed. Following the surgery, the Movement Disorder team adjusts the device to achieve the best functional results while minimizing any side effects.

Reported Success

Studies of patients who have undergone DBS have shown that, on average, they experience more than a 50 percent reduction in symptom severity. These studies also show that patients are usually able to reduce their medication dosages – in some cases, as much as 80 percent.

Neurosurgical Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The Department of Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), as well as the neurosurgery field in the U.S., were founded by Dr. Harvey Cushing in 1913. Since that time, our team has been devoted to the advancement of neurosurgical care, research, and education. A multidisciplinary staff of more than 100, including 13 clinical faculty, work together to provide patient-focused, world-class medical care for the entire spectrum of neurological diseases. We provide state-of-the-art Parkinson's disease treatment through revolutionary techniques and advanced technology, such as our Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating (AMIGO) suite.

Our neurosurgeons provide care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, as well as our community hospitals – Mass General Brigham Healthcare Center (22 Patriot Place, Foxborough) and Mass General Brigham Healthcare Center (Chestnut Hill). They perform more than 2,500 surgical treatments each year at these locations for patients from local, national, and international communities.

Patient- and Family-focused Care

BWH has long been committed to not only the care of our patients but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-focused care – involving systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment – is a guiding force behind the care we provide at the Department of Neurosurgery.

Quality of Patient Care

BWH is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and follow established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our Inpatient Satisfaction Survey, sent to patients’ to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and areas for improvement. We pride ourselves in the Quality of Patient Care we provide and how we are measured compared with other hospitals.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Neurosurgical Team

The neurosurgical team at BWH features internationally recognized surgeons who are all faculty at Harvard Medical School. Together they continue to build on our long and distinguished history by offering innovative, compassionate, and patient-centered care, and pioneering groundbreaking advances in the treatment of all neurosurgical conditions. Meet our neurosurgical team.

Additional Resource

Contact Us

If you believe you should have an evaluation and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our neurosurgical experts, call 1-800-294-9999 to speak to one of our knowledgeable coordinators who can help to connect you to the doctor that best meets your needs or fill out an online appointment request form.

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