The duration and steps of the implant procedure can vary, and the procedure typically lasts several hours. The hospital stay is usually a few days and includes preoperative tests, planning, implant procedure and initial recovery before going home.
Your surgical team will include:
- A neurologist
- A neurosurgeon specialized in DBS Therapy
- Other healthcare professionals
People who have had the procedure usually describe it as demanding and exhausting rather than painful. Afterwards, patients may have some discomfort and soreness that can be managed with pain medication.
Implanting the Leads
In the first part of the procedure, the neurosurgeon places the leads in a precise part of the brain. The brain is mapped with an MRI or CT scan. Patients will be awake during the surgery to help the surgeon determine the best place for the lead. Patients are lightly sedated and will not experience pain.
The surgeon may test stimulate areas of your brain while asking the patient to move their arms or legs, tap their fingers or move their hands. This helps the surgeon find the best lead position to control symptoms like tremor, rigidity or slowness of movement.
Implanting the Neurostimulator
The neurostimulator may be implanted the same day or later. Patients will be sedated and asleep for this part of the procedure. The surgeon begins by checking to see that the leads are properly positioned. The neurostimulator is placed under the skin of the chest just below the collar bone. The surgeon will also connect the lead to the neurostimulator with extensions that are placed under the skin, leading up from the chest to the neck and head.
Healing and Recovery
Patients usually go home a few days after the surgery and healing can take several weeks. Discomfort or pain at the incision sites can be managed with medication. Typically the device will not be turned on until the first programming session.
For several weeks after the surgery, strenuous activity, arm movements over your shoulder and excessive stretching of the neck should be avoided. Activities that were difficult before surgery can gradually be added.
After the patient has healed from the implant procedure, the doctor will use a wireless device to turn on the neurostimulator and program the settings to best control symptoms while minimizing side effects. Periodic adjustments and follow-up sessions to further adjust the settings are a routine part of DBS Therapy.
What to Expect
After the initial programming, people with tremor may feel a brief tingling sensation, and usually experience relief from symptoms almost immediately. However, results vary. People with other symptoms of Parkinson's disease often do not feel any sensation, and the full effect of the therapy may not be immediate. Fine-tuning the system specifically to each patient’s symptom control needs may take several months.