Deep Brain Stimulation for Movement Disorders—
Promising Treatment Improves Quality of Life
The most recent addition to Holy Cross Hospital’s treatment options for neurological problems is deep brain stimulation (DBS). The hospital is one of just a handful of Washington DC and Maryland facilities to offer DBS—one of the most cutting-edge and effective treatments for Parkinson’s disease, and the latest approach to neurodegenerative disease management.
During this advanced brain surgery for Parkinson’s, surgeons implant electrodes in the brain that deliver controlled electrical stimulation to targeted areas. The electrical stimulation helps to disrupt faulty signals in the brain that cause common symptoms, such as tremors, stiffening of limbs, freezing and can actually help treat the side effects of Parkinson’s medications.
Holy Cross Hospital Neurosurgeon Zachery Levine, MD, is a world-renowned expert in deep brain stimulator implantation, who has years of experience in the full-range of neurodegenerative disease treatments. He has conducted more than 500 DBS procedures, employing the most sophisticated technology to ensure accuracy and safety, making DBS a relatively low-risk procedure with positive—and sometimes immediate—results for patients. [Read patient story]
Precision Electrical Stimulation
Prior to the procedure, three-dimensional scanned images of the patient’s brain are produced—mapping the route to the precise areas of the brain that are causing the symptoms. During the procedure, Dr. Levine uses the map and image-guided software to reach the target, avoiding damage to healthy tissue.
In the first stage of DBS, he implants the stimulator electrodes in the target areas of the brain. In the second stage of the surgery, a connection is made to a battery pack that is placed under the skin, much like a pacemaker. The connections are all under the skin and not external to the body.
Several weeks after the procedure, the neurologist “turns on” the battery and begins the process of finding the right strength and frequency to get the best results. A new feature—a home programming device—lets patients fine tune some of the electrical firings on their own after the initial setting.
While it is frequently used as a Parkinson tremor treatment, DBS surgery for dystonia is also effective in controlling the painful spasms that patients with this neurological muscle disorder experience.
Surgeons may also use DBS for essential tremor—a disorder that causes “action tremors.” Unlike Parkinson’s, in which tremors occur when people are at rest, action tremors occur when the person affected is engaged in voluntary movements, such as eating or writing.
Patients who have DBS may also continue to receive medication to help control symptoms, and participate in physical therapy, or attend the Holy Cross Hospital’s Parkinson's Exercise Class to help maintain strength, balance and improve coordination.
To schedule an appointment and to learn more about deep brain stimulation, call 301-754-8800.