What is deep brain stimulation?
Deep brain stimulation is used to treat a variety of neurological conditions caused by faulty signals within the brain. These conditions range from movement disorders to epilepsy and can be severely disabling to those affected. Deep brain stimulation involves implanting tiny electrodes or wires into specific areas of the brain and passing small electrical impulses through them to correct the faulty signals.
Deep brain stimulation is different to motor cortex simulation which uses electrodes on the surface of the brain, rather than deep within it, to control pain signals. Both are types of neuromodulation.
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What is it used to treat and how effective is it?
Our brain is responsible for a countless number of functions every second - these are all performed by a precise network of over 100 billion interconnected neurones (nerve cells). The signals these neurones transmit result in vast networks of activity within our brain. Sometimes these networks can become disrupted by scarring on the brain due to infection or injury, or degenerative processes that occur over a long time (such as in Parkinson’s disease). Many neurological conditions arise as a result of this disruption and faulty signalling.
Deep brain stimulation can be a life-changing treatment option for some people with the following conditions, especially when other medical treatments have not been effective:
Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which a part of the brain that controls movement degenerates and becomes progressively damaged. This can result in a tremor as well as problems with walking and movement. It can also cause lots of other symptoms that aren’t related to movement such as sleep disturbance, pain or mood changes.
Deep brain stimulation has transformed the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, and is the most common treatment for patients whose symptoms can’t be controlled on medication alone. Studies have shown that all the common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease – freezing (a sudden and unpredictable inability to start moving), instability, rigidity and tremor – respond well to deep brain stimulation. It has also been shown to reduce the involuntary movements (dyskinesias) that can occur with the long-term medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
A tremor is an involuntary shaking or trembling, usually in the hands, face or legs. It can be due to a wide variety of causes. Deep brain stimulation can be used to improve the symptoms of many kinds of tremor. It has been shown to almost completely suppress tremor in conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and multiple sclerosis.
Epilepsy is a condition that results in recurrent seizures. It can be a serious disability to live with, often impacting daily activities and the ability to drive and work. It is usually treated with medication to prevent or reduce the number of seizures. However, in people whose seizures are still not controlled on medication, deep brain stimulation has been shown to provide benefits when used alongside their regular medication.
Pain is a serious and debilitating problem. Deep brain stimulation has been shown to reduce pain in a wide range of conditions when other treatments have failed. These include failed back surgery, amputation, stroke, brachial plexus avulsion (a condition that occurs when a nerve root is torn from the spinal cord), multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury. It is approved by the UK National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a treatment option to be delivered by a multi-disciplinary team specialising in movement disorders.
How is it performed and what is involved?
Deep brain stimulation surgery involves inserting small electrodes deep into the brain through two small holes in the skull. This can either be done while the patient is asleep (under general anaesthesia) or while they are awake with a local anaesthetic.
The electrodes are connected to an electrical device (like a pacemaker), which is placed under the skin of the chest. This device is then programmed by a specialist who can adjust the settings to best improve symptoms.
The surgery will usually require a stay in hospital for 3-5 days, however, some patients may require longer stays if there are any complications. Our multi-disciplinary team will ensure the safety and comfort of every patient throughout the procedure and recovery period.
Why choose The London Clinic?
Deep brain stimulation is a rapidly advancing treatment for many debilitating neurological conditions. Here, at The London Clinic, we are committed to delivering effective neuromodulation therapies to the highest standards of care and the very best facilities and equipment. We offer access to some of the most expert specialists in the field of neuromodulation with clinical support teams that are second to none.
What the experts say...
With many degenerative diseases, there are no treatments available that can profoundly improve someone’s life immediately. The notion that with neurosurgery, one can improve function and quality of life straight away is very satisfying.