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Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep Brain Stimulation

University of Colorado | Anschutz Medical Campus

What is Deep Brain Stimulation?

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure in which a device, often referred to as a “brain pacemaker," is implanted into the brain for patients who suffer from movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and dystonia. As the most advanced treatment available for such disorders, DBS has grown as more research has confirmed its effectiveness.
Watch how DBS helped one patient fight Parkinson's disease and restored his creative passions.


At the University of Colorado Hospital, we take a multidisciplinary approach to patient care. That means your DBS team includes more than a single surgeon. Instead, the entire care team made up of a neurosurgeon, neurologist, neuropsychologist, rehabilitation specialist, physician’s assistant, physical therapist, and speech/swallow therapist all combine their knowledge and efforts on each individual case. So instead of a one doctor-one patient approach, we assemble a collection of medical professionals all dedicated to your specific situation.

Are you a candidate for DBS?
DBS is often an appropriate treatment option for a number of conditions:

Parkinson’s disease criteria for surgery:
-Patients who have difficulty controlling their symptoms despite various drug combinations
-Patients who suffer from side effects from their medications such as dyskinesias (involuntary non-rhythmic movements) and nausea.
-Patients who have tremor which is unresponsive (refractory) to medical treatment

Essential Tremor criteria for surgery:
-Patients who suffer from tremor that is disabling and have undergone trials of multiple medications that prove to be ineffective.

Dystonia criteria for surgery:
-Patients who are older than seven who suffer from primary dystonia that does not respond to medication. This includes generalized and focal dystonia.

What are the benefits of DBS?
-Benefits for PD patients: DBS therapy can reduce rigidity (stiffness), bradykinesia/akinesia (slowness of movement), and tremor (shaking). Many patients have a dramatic reduction in the amount of time in which they experience excessive involuntary movements or fluctuations. Additionally, many patients are able to reduce the amount of oral medication they are taking to control their PD symptoms.

-Benefits for ET patients: Many patients become unable to participate in everyday activities due to tremor. DBS therapy can significantly reduce tremor and improves ability to participate in activities which were once very difficult.

-Benefits for Dystonia patients: Patients may experience benefits with their dystonia symptoms such as reduced cramping and involuntary muscle contractions.
Is DBS experimental?
No. DBS is an FDA approved procedure for advanced
Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and dystonia.


Is it a cure?
No. The surgery will help control some of the motor symptoms associated with the above listed movement disorders.

How long will it last?
Research has proven that stimulation is effective five to ten years after initial implantation.  The stimulator is operated by a battery, see below.  
Does DBS improve memory or other problems with PD?
No. The surgery helps with motor functions only.

Are there any limitations to what I can do after I have had DBS?
There are certain limitations to consider after surgery. Mainly, anything that would interfere with the electrical signal sent to the brain. An example of this would be at the airport. You cannot pass through the metal detectors. Instead, a “pat-down” is required. You will be given a special medical card to produce for such instances. Also, please remember that there will be limitations to having any type of MRI. Please consult with your DBS doctor prior to any procedures.

How long does my battery last?
There are two different types of batteries. The non-rechargeable battery lasts between 3-5 years depending on usage. The rechargeable battery can last up to 9 years, but does require routine charging up a three times a week or more.

DBS Support Group
When: Second Friday of every month from1:00-3:00
Where: Bethany Lutheran Church, Great Hall
4500 E. Hampden Ave.
Cherry Hills Village, CO 80113
For further DBS Support Group Information, please contact:
Donna Miller 
Kate Kelsall

Contact Information for the DBS Program at the University of Colorado Hospital:

Phil Schaefer

DBS Coordinator

(720) 848-2195 - Phone

(720) 848-2106 - Fax