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Procedure: What to Expect – DBS Therapy

Essential Tremor

So that you can receive DBS Therapy, a device similar to a pacemaker is placed under the skin in your chest. Very thin wires connect the device to your brain to enable the signals to reach the source of your symptoms. Here's what to expect during and after the procedure that makes therapy possible.

Having the Procedure

The system is placed by a neurosurgeon specialised in DBS Therapy. The length and steps of the implant procedure can vary, and the procedure typically lasts several hours. The hospital stay is usually a few days for the preoperative tests, planning, implant procedure, and initial recovery before home care.

Implanting the Lead

In the first part of the procedure, your neurosurgeon precisely places the thin wire called a lead in the part of your brain called the thalamus. Your brain is mapped with an MRI or CT scan. During the procedure, the surgeon may test stimulation to ensure proper lead positioning. You will be asked to move your hand and arm. During this part of the procedure, you will be lightly sedated and will not feel pain.

Implanting the Neurostimulator

The neurostimulator may be implanted the same day or later. You will be sedated and asleep for this part of the procedure. The surgeon begins by checking to see that the lead is properly positioned. The neurostimulator is placed under the skin of your 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 your neck and head.


People usually go home a few days after the surgery. Healing can take several weeks. Any discomfort or pain at the incisions can be managed with medication.

For several weeks you will avoid strenuous activity, arm movements over your shoulder, and excessive stretching of your neck. You may gradually want to try activities that were difficult before your surgery. Be sure to follow all of your doctor's instructions.

Programming Sessions

After you have healed from the procedure, your doctor will turn on the device and program it to best control your individual symptoms while minimizing side effects. You will return for follow-up sessions to further adjust the settings. Adjusting the settings from time to time is a routine part of DBS Therapy.

Most people get relief from their symptoms almost immediately. Some people feel a brief tingling sensation after the initial programming. You will see the best results after the system has been finetuned for your specific needs for symptom control. Reaching maximum effect may take several months.

Depending on the system and your therapy needs, you may have a controller that allows you to turn the system on and off, adjust the stimulation, and check the battery.

What Are the Risks of the Procedure and Therapy?

DBS Therapy requires brain surgery. Risks of brain surgery may include serious complications such as coma, bleeding inside the brain, seizures and infection. Some of these may be fatal. Once implanted, the system may become infected, parts may wear through your skin, and the lead or lead/extension connector may move. Medtronic DBS Therapy could stop suddenly because of mechanical or electrical problems. Any of these situations may require additional surgery or cause your symptoms to return.

Talk to your doctor about the risks that may be applicable to your specific situation.

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.