Deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy for OCD* targets precise areas of the brain linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

How It Works

DBS uses a surgically implanted medical device, similar to a cardiac pacemaker, to deliver carefully controlled electrical stimulation. The stimulation is sent to a precisely targeted structure within the brain, the anterior limb of the internal capsule (AIC).

DBS may treat the symptoms of OCD. It is not a cure, and some symptoms may remain even with the treatment. If stimulation is discontinued, the symptoms will likely return.

DBS System

The DBS system is implanted inside the body and includes the following components.

  • A lead is a set of thin wires covered with a protective coating. It carries the therapy signal to the electrodes that deliver stimulation to the brain. Approximately 4 inches of the lead are implanted inside the brain. The rest of the lead (about 15 inches) is implanted under the skin of the scalp. Two leads are needed.
  • The extension is a set of thin wires covered with a protective coating that connects the lead to the neurostimulator. The extension is connected to the end of the lead, just behind the ear (or where your doctor decides is the best placement). The connection point between the lead and the extension is placed under the scalp. The remaining length of the extension is placed under the skin down the neck to the upper chest area and connects to the neurostimulator. For each lead, you will have one extension.
  • One or two neurostimulators are used for treatment of OCD. They are the power source of your DBS system. They generate and control the therapy stimulation. Each neurostimulator is implanted just under the skin in the upper chest area.

These electrical pulses are delivered through the extension and lead to the targeted areas in the brain. Your clinician can adjust the pulses wirelessly to check or change the neurostimulator settings.

Finding the Right Level of Stimulation

Once the neurostimulator has been activated following surgery, it can be programmed by your clinician to find the level of stimulation that maximizes benefits while minimizing side effects. The clinician uses a programming device to make non-invasive adjustments to the neurostimulator. It may take several months to find the right level of stimulation.

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

How long the neurostimulator's battery lasts depends on the settings. Before the battery runs out, the neurostimulator can be replaced in a surgical procedure that does not require an overnight stay in the hospital. Leads and extensions don’t typically need to be replaced.

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.


Humanitarian Device: Authorized by Federal (U.S.A.) law for use as an adjunct to medications and as an alternative to anterior capsulotomy for treatment of chronic, severe, treatment-resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in adult patients who have failed at least three selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The effectiveness of this device for this use has not been demonstrated.