What Is DBS Therapy for OCD?

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Therapy for OCD targets precise areas of the brain linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

How It Works

DBS uses a surgically implanted medical device, similar to a cardiac pacemaker, to deliver carefully controlled electrical stimulation. The stimulation is sent to a precisely targeted structure within the brain, the anterior limb of the internal capsule (AIC) and adjacent ventral striatum. We refer to this site at the junction of the ventral capsule/ventral striatum as the VC/VS. These circuits are involved in psychiatric disorders such as OCD and depression. Thus DBS therapy treats the symptoms of OCD. It is not a cure, and some symptoms may remain even with the treatment. If stimulation is discontinued, the symptoms will likely return.

The Medtronic Reclaim® DBS System consists of the following implanted components:

Reclaim DBS Therapy System fully implanted

Reclaim DBS Therapy System fully implanted

  • Two leads – Leads are thin, insulated wires with four electrodes at their tips. The leads are implanted in the brain.
  • Two extensions – Extensions connect to the leads. The extensions are threaded underneath the skin at the head, then run 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 or in the abdominal area. One or two neurostimulators may be used.

    Kinetra Neurostimulator

    Sometimes called a “brain pacemaker,” the neurostimulator 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.

Your clinician can adjust the pulses wirelessly to check or change the neurostimulator settings to adapt them to individual therapeutic needs.

Operating the System

A small, hand-held patient programmer lets you turn the system on and off by holding it for one to two seconds against the area where the neurostimulator is implanted (beneath the collarbone or in the abdominal area). However, in most cases the neurostimulator is always on.

Finding the Right Level of Stimulation

Once the neurostimulator has been activated following surgery, it can be programmed by your clinician to find the level of stimulation that maximizes benefits while minimizing side effects. The clinician uses a special computer to make non-invasive adjustments to the neurostimulator. It may take several months to find the right level of stimulation.

Depending on your device settings, a neurostimulator’s battery can last anywhere from 6 to 16 months. The battery can be replaced in a surgical procedure that does not require an overnight stay in the hospital. Leads and extensions don’t typically need to be replaced.

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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