Northwestern Medicine Deep Brain Stimulation

Northwestern Medicine is a premier destination for the treatment of movement disorders, with two locations with comprehensive programs that offer deep brain stimulation (DBS) as a treatment option for patients with Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and dystonia.

How Does DBS Work?

DBS delivers high-frequency electrical stimulation to precise areas of the brain to block the faulty signals that cause tremors and other movement symptoms.

During the surgical procedure, an electrode is placed inside the brain, which is connected to a very small neurostimulator (electrical generator) implanted in the chest or abdomen. Electric current is then delivered from the neurostimulator through the electrode to the targeted area of brain tissue, to block the faulty signals that cause the symptoms.

This treatment can be effective in treating tremors, stiffness, walking difficulties, slowed movement and extra movements. Although DBS doesn't cure the underlying neurological condition, it may control symptoms effectively for many years and allow patients to decrease the amount of medications they need, ultimately helping them get back to their everyday life.

When is it time to consider DBS?

DBS should be considered when symptoms are progressing and becoming more difficult to manage, and when medications do not adequately control symptoms. At Northwestern Medicine, we can help patients and their care teams decide when and if DBS is the right course of treatment.

These initial considerations in Parkinson's patients may help to determine if DBS could be the right option for you:

  1. Medications are not adequately controlling symptoms, despite the best efforts to optimize treatment
  2. Medications meant to control symptoms result in side effects such as dyskinesias (involuntary extra movements), psychiatric problems or other complications
  3. Motor fluctuations and unreliable responses to medications begin to interfere with quality of life

DBS may also be used to treat:

  • Essential tremor: A condition that causes a rhythmic trembling of the hands, head, voice, legs, or trunk
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): A chronic disease that affects the central nervous system—the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves
  • Intractable pain: Pain that can’t be relieved by usual medical and/or surgical treatment
  • Dystonia: A movement disorder in which muscles contract involuntarily
  • Psychiatric conditions: Conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression that don’t respond to medications or other treatments

Your DBS Team

If DBS is determined to be appropriate for a patient, we have a dedicated, experienced team who combine efforts to achieve an optimal outcome for each patient.

Your DBS team is comprised of neurologists with specialized training in movement disorders, functional neurosurgeons, neurophysiologists, DBS nursing specialists, neuropsychologists, social workers and rehabilitative therapists, who combine efforts to achieve a maximum functional outcome for each individual patient. The team can help you decide when and if DBS is the right course of treatment for you.

Locations Performing this Treatment

Related Resources

Deep Brain Stimulation Brochure: Find out if deep brain stimulation is right for you.