Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure used to treat several disabling neurological symptoms—most commonly the debilitating motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD), such as tremor, rigidity, stiffness, slowed movement, and walking problems. The procedure is also used to treat essential tremor, dystonia, and focal epilepsy (epilepsy that originates in just one part of the brain). At present, the procedure is used only for individuals whose symptoms cannot be adequately controlled with medications. However, only individuals who improve to some degree after taking medication for Parkinson’s benefit from DBS.
DBS uses a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device called an implantable pulse generator (IPG)—similar to a heart pacemaker and approximately the size of a stopwatch to—deliver electrical stimulation to specific areas in the brain that control movement, thus blocking the abnormal nerve signals that cause symptoms. The DBS system consists of three