Questions and Answers About the Therapy Deep Brain Stimulation for Dystonia

What is Medtronic Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Therapy?

DBS Therapy uses an implanted device that stimulates specific areas of the brain. This may help control some of your dystonia* symptoms but it is not a cure. Your symptoms will return when the system is turned off or removed.

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How does the treatment work?

DBS uses a small, pacemaker-like device, placed under the skin of the chest, to send electronic signals to an area in the brain that is the source of your symptoms.

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What are the implanted components of the Medtronic DBS system?

One or two neurostimulators are needed for dystonia therapy. The implanted components are:

  • One or two wires (leads) implanted in the brain
  • One or two extensions. Your surgeon will connect the leads to the neurostimulator using extensions that run under the skin from the chest to your neck and head
  • One or two neurostimulators, usually implanted beneath the skin in the chest below the collarbone and connected to the extension (depending on the patient, a surgeon may implant the neurostimulator in the abdomen)

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Is it possible to adjust the device settings?

The device settings and stimulation levels can be adjusted noninvasively by a clinician using a programming device.

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What probable benefits does DBS offer?

DBS Therapy for dystonia may help control your symptoms, but it is not a cure. When you turn on the brain stimulation system, it will deliver stimulation that may decrease some or all of your symptoms. Your symptoms will return when the system is turned off.

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What are the risks of DBS?

Risks of DBS can include risks of surgery, side effects, or device complications. Please refer to Risks and Probable Benefits for more information.

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What is the history of DBS?

Medtronic started developing deep brain stimulation in 1987 and has been the leader in the field ever since. Your Medtronic DBS will be backed by our decades of research, innovation, and experience.

Medtronic DBS Therapy is currently approved to treat Parkinson's disease and essential tremor, and as a Humanitarian Device to treat dystonia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Since 1997, more than 140,000 patients worldwide have received Medtronic DBS Therapy.

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What is a Humanitarian Use Device?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Medtronic DBS Therapy in 2003 as a Humanitarian Use Device for dystonia. A Humanitarian Use Device is intended to benefit patients by treating or diagnosing a disease or condition that affects fewer than 4,000 new people in the United States each year.

The FDA reviewed the safety of Medtronic DBS Therapy for dystonia and determined that the probable health benefits outweigh the risks of injury or illness from its use. Efficacy of treatment (effectiveness) has not been established by large clinical trials. Surgery to implant the system can only be performed in a medical center whose institutional review board has approved use of the device.


*Humanitarian Device - Authorized by Federal Law as an aid in the management of chronic, intractable (drug refractory) primary dystonia, including generalized and/or segmental dystonia, hemidystonia, and cervical dystonia (torticollis), in patients seven years of age or above. The effectiveness of the devices for treating these conditions has not been demonstrated.


Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.