What Is DBS Therapy?

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Therapy for dystonia, which uses deep brain stimulation technology, is approved under a Humanitarian Device Exemption for the aid in management of chronic, intractable (drug refractory) primary dystonia, including generalised and segmental dystonia, hemidystonia, and cervical dystonia (torticollis), for individuals 7 years of age and older.

How It Works

DBS uses a surgically implanted medical device, similar to a cardiac pacemaker, to deliver electrical stimulation to precisely targeted areas within the brain.

Continuous stimulation of these areas blocks the signals that cause the disabling motor symptoms of dystonia. The electrical stimulation can be noninvasively adjusted.

The Medtronic DBS System consists of three implanted components:

  • Lead – A lead consists of four thin coiled insulated wires with four electrodes at the lead tip. The lead is implanted in the brain.
  • Extension – An extension connects to the lead and is threaded under the skin from the head, down the neck and into the upper chest.
  • Neurostimulator – The neurostimulator connects to the extension. This small, sealed device, similar to a cardiac pacemaker, contains a battery and electronics. The neurostimulator is implanted beneath the skin in the chest below the collarbone (depending on the patient, a surgeon may implant the neurostimulator in the abdomen).

    Sometimes called a “brain pacemaker,” it produces the electrical pulses needed for stimulation. These electrical pulses are delivered through the extension and lead to the targeted areas in the brain. The pulses can be adjusted wirelessly to check or change the neurostimulator settings. Second generation neurostimulators are more advanced and include new features such as the possibility of being recharged. Rechargeability is an important feature for patients with high energy consumption. The rechargeable device allows almost one decade’s peace of mind without surgeries for battery replacement.

Operating the System

Your surgeon may provide you with a small, handheld patient programmer or magnet. This programmer lets you turn the system on and off by holding it for 1 or 2 seconds against the area or magnet where the neurostimulator is implanted. However, in most cases, the neurostimulator is always on.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2010

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