A Comprehensive Guide to Deep Brain Stimulation Procedure

The Central Nervous System comprises the brain and the spinal cord while the Peripheral Nervous system comprises the nerves and the sensory receptors in the sense organs. All these work in coordination with each other to make the human body work properly. Just like any other part of the body, the majority of brain illnesses are treatable with medicine and surgery. Brain surgery is also used to treat epilepsy, fluid build-up in the brain, skull fractures, blood clots, nerve damage, and many more issues.

Deep brain stimulation is one such procedure that is used to inactivate portions of the brain that cause Parkinson’s disease and its symptoms without causing any damage to the brain. The deep brain stimulation cost ranges from 17,500 USD to 24,000 USD in India.

What is Deep Brain Stimulation?

Deep brain stimulation is a neurological procedure that is recommended in patients with impaired mental ability. During this procedure, electrodes are implanted inside certain areas of the brain. Electric impulses are generated by these electrodes. The aberrant impulses are moderated by these impulses. Stimulators are implanted on both sides of the patient’s brain. These stimulators detect the inactive areas of the brain and electrodes are subsequently placed accordingly. The electrodes are attached to a pacemaker which is implanted beneath the skin of the chest below the collarbone.

The pulse generator provides regular electrical impulses to the targeted areas of the brain, modifying the aberrant activities that are generating the unwanted symptoms. The working of deep brain stimulation can be likened to that of a heart pacemaker and thus often referred to as “the brain’s pacemaker”.

What are the symptoms of a neurological disorder?

The following symptoms are seen in patients suffering from a neurological disorder:

  • Muscle contractions that occur involuntarily
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Memory loss
  • Stress, fatigue, and anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Excessive cleaning or hand washing
  • Sudden onset of headaches
  • Cognitive difficulties

People suffering from any of the above symptoms may require deep brain stimulation. Of course, the process is used when medication is no longer effective.

How is the Deep Brain Stimulation procedure performed?

There are different ways in which the deep brain stimulation procedure is performed. The first and foremost step is to locate the area where electrodes are to be implanted. A Computed Tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to locate the targeted locations. Once the suitable location has been selected, permanent electrodes are planted inside the brain. The loose ends are then tucked beneath the skin and the incision is shut with the help of sutures. The whole procedure is done under general anesthesia. Once the procedure is over, the stimulator is usually switched off for four to six weeks. The medications and the simulators might be changed from time to time depending on how the patient is responding to the treatment. It may take several months before some visible change is observed in the symptoms shown by the patient.

Is Deep Brain Stimulation effective?

Around 70% of the patients who undergo this treatment show visible improvement and reduction in the number of medicines they are taking. The probable side effects may vary from person to person. Some people may experience irritation or soreness around the stitches but that is quite natural and should not be a matter of serious concern. Abnormal sensation, tingling, numbness, and involuntary muscle contractions are some more symptoms that are seen in certain patients. The patient is required to stay under observation for 24 to 48 hours after the procedure to avoid any complications.

What should be avoided after Deep brain stimulation surgery?

Doctors advise avoiding heavy activity for four to six weeks after the surgery. Thus, physical activities such as jogging, swimming, lifting heavy things, etc. are best avoided immediately after the procedure. Avoid doing anything that puts a strain on your brain. This will help the wound heal quickly. You can always consult your doctor if you have any doubts or queries as he is the right person to talk to.

What are the risks associated with Deep brain stimulation surgery?

Although deep brain stimulation procedure is quite safe and low risk any surgical procedure can have complications. Besides, brain stimulation can itself cause many complications. During this procedure, the doctors create small holes in the skull so that they can implant electrodes into the targeted areas. A device like a pacemaker is also implanted under the skin below the collarbone. This procedure may have certain complications such as bleeding in the brain, stroke, breathing problems, nausea, infections, heart problems, and seizures.

Wrapping up

Unlike other surgical operations, DBS operation has the advantage of being reversible. It does not cause any permanent damage to the brain. Besides, the stimulator can be turned off at any time if the patient experiences any side effects. Most insurance companies provide coverage for FDA-approved uses of deep brain stimulation.