Advertisement

What are the risks of deep brain stimulation?

Overall serious complications from deep brain stimulation (DBS) are rare, but no invasive surgical procedure is without risk. The main risk in DBS is bleeding in the brain during the implantation of the leads, which can result in stroke. However, most patients (about 99%) do not have significant bleeding.

Another potential complication is infection. Infection occurs in about 5% of patients. Infection can be serious and require the removal of the hardware. If this happens, it may be possible to re-implant the hardware once the infection is treated.

Hardware failure is also a concern. Examples include wire disconnection or stimulator battery failure. However, most complications that occur in DBS for dystonia can be taken care of without removing the hardware.
The most restrictive complication of deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery is brain hemorrhage. As part of brain mapping or placing the DBS electrode a blood vessel may rupture and lead to bleeding in the brain. This happens in about 1-3% of patients. Some patients may have severe stroke-like symptoms as a result. Other complications include infection, and lead breakage, which is very uncommon. Side effects from stimulation such as numbness, slurred speech, and double vision can occur, but can be minimized with skillful programming of the DBS device. Occasional patients may need repositioning of the DBS electrode if side effects limit response to treatment.

The most serious risks of deep brain stimulation include coma, bleeding in the brain, seizures, stroke, and death, however, the risks of these occurring are extremely low. The most common risks are infection, misplacement of the lead, and malfunction of the lead. These risks are more common than the more severe risks but the chances of these occurring are also very low. 

Nader Pouratian, MD
Neurosurgery
The two most important risks of deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery are bleeding and infection. Bleeding occurs in less than 2% of patients who have the surgery. Fewer than 1% of patients who have had the surgery are symptomatic in the long run. Symptoms can include weakness, personality changes and language difficulties. Infections can occur in up to 5% of those who undergo DBS surgery. That risk is reduced by using careful surgical techniques.

Continue Learning about Parkinson's Disease Treatment

What do the wires for deep brain stimulation (DBS) look like?
Fahd R. Khan, MDFahd R. Khan, MD
Wires used for deep brain stimulation (DBS) are only as thick as a couple strands of hair. In this v...
More Answers
How are different conditions treated with deep brain stimulation (DBS)?
Fahd R. Khan, MDFahd R. Khan, MD
Different areas in the brain are targeted to treat dystonia and essential tremor with deep brain sti...
More Answers
Is There a More Holistic Approach to Treating Parkinson's Disease?
Is There a More Holistic Approach to Treating Parkinson's Disease?
Do Some Parkinson's Meds Have a Timeframe Where They Stop Working?
Do Some Parkinson's Meds Have a Timeframe Where They Stop Working?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.