What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

In general, here's how surgery for deep brain stimulation works.

  • Brain surgery. For the brain surgery portion, your care team fits you with a special head frame to keep your head still during the procedure (stereotactic head frame). Then, they use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to map your brain and identify the area in your brain where they'll place the electrodes. You'll be given a local anesthetic to numb your scalp before surgery. You won't need an anesthetic in your brain itself because the brain has no pain receptors.

    Your surgeon implants a thin wire lead with four contacts (electrodes) at the tips into a specific area of your brain. A wire runs under your skin to a generator (neurostimulator) implanted near your collarbone.

    You'll remain awake and alert during the procedure so that your neurologist can talk to you to make sure the right areas of your brain are being stimulated. Your responses help your health care team place the lead in the correct place while minimizing side effects. During surgery, both the neurologist and surgeon carefully monitor your brain to help ensure correct electrode placement.

  • Chest wall surgery. During the second portion of the surgery, the surgeon implants the part of the device that contains the batteries (pulse generator) under the skin in your chest, near your collarbone. This usually occurs a few days after the brain surgery. General anesthesia is used during this procedure. Wires from the brain electrodes are placed under your skin and guided down to the battery-operated pulse generator. The generator is programmed to send continuous electrical pulses to your brain. You control the generator, and you can turn it on or off using a special remote control.

After the procedure

After surgery, you'll need to take antibiotics to lower the risk of infection. A few weeks after surgery, the pulse generator in your chest is activated in your doctor's office. The doctor can be easily program your pulse generator from outside your body using a special remote control. The amount of stimulation is customized to your condition.

Stimulation may be constant, 24 hours a day, or your doctor may advise you to turn your pulse generator off at night and back on in the morning, depending on your condition. You can turn stimulation on and off with a special remote control that you'll take home with you. In some cases, your doctor may program the pulse generator to let you make minor adjustments at home.

The battery life of your generator varies with usage and settings. The battery may last between three and five years. When the battery needs to be replaced, your surgeon will replace the generator during an outpatient procedure.

You must remain in close contact with your surgeon and neurologist to make sure that the pulse generator is working correctly.

May. 14, 2014