Deep brain stimulation or DBS is a procedure where electrodes are implanted within specific human brain areas. The electrical impulses produced by the electrodes adjust abnormal impulses, and they have a significant impact on certain chemicals and cells within the brain.
Deep brain stimulation is useful for treating various medical conditions like
- Essential tremor
- Parkinson's disease
- OCD or Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Deep brain stimulation can be a prospective treatment for
- Huntington's disease
- Cluster headache
- Chronic pain
- Tourette syndrome
Neuralink Deep Brain Stimulation
Before starting with the actual process, an expert positions a stereotactic head frame on the head of the patient to keep the head at the proper place during the brain imaging stage. The frame is secured to the patient's head using screws or pins.
A neurosurgeon implants the deep brain stimulation system in two crucial stages.
First, the neurosurgeon makes a small hole in the skull and leads with electrodes at the ends that are passed through the hole. They are implanted surgically in those areas of the brain that contribute to the symptoms of medical conditions.
They place a lead on just one side of the brain, but if symptoms occur on both sides, then they can place one lead on both sides of the brain.
One week later, they perform a separate surgery to implant one or two battery-enabled pulse generator tools under the skin in the upper chest below the collarbone.
An extension wire is also attached to the lead that has already been placed in the brain. Then, the entire thing is tunneled under the skin behind the ear, down the neck to the pulse generator tool.
The patient needs to return to the neurosurgeon after two to four weeks so that they can turn on the implanted pulse generator using a hand-held tool. They also adjust the electrical pulses until there's an improvement in the symptoms.
Deep brain stimulation is a risky and serious procedure. It is important to weigh this process's potential benefits and risks even if you are eligible for this treatment. Preparing for the surgery involves:
- Doing several medical tests to ensure that the process is an appropriate and safe option.
- Before the implantation, brain imaging procedures like MRI. Such studies map those areas of the brain where the electrodes will be implanted.
Deep brain stimulation is a surgical procedure.
The doctor turns on the pulse generator in the patient's chest using a unique type of remote control after some weeks. This allows the doctor to program the pulse generator easily. They customize the stimulation of the brain according to the patient's condition. It might take 4 to 6 months to get the perfect setting for brain stimulation.
You can get the stimulation either all the time, or you can turn it off at night and on in the morning, as per the doctor’s advice. But this completely depends on your condition.
Take the particular remote control along with you to turn on the stimulation as and when required and turn it off accordingly. Sometimes, the neurosurgeons might fix the pulse generator in a way to adjust it a little at home.
The generator’s battery life can vary with settings and usage. The surgeon replaces the generator or its battery during outpatient procedures.
The risks of the surgery include:
- Stroke can be a possible risk of the surgery.
- The leads might get misplaced, resulting in infection.
- Bleeding in the brain can result in seizures and even breathing problems along with heart problems.
- Nausea is also a possible risk associated with the surgery.
Side effects of the surgery
Temporary swelling and pain at the site of implantation.
Hardware complications like eroded lead wire.
Unwanted mood changes like depression and anger.
Vision problems like double vision.
The recovery time is when the patients feel better than normal. Swelling of the brain around the tip of the electrode causes a lesion effect, which is a good indicator of your recovery once the stimulator is programmed.