Recovering After a DBS Implant Procedure
As with any surgical procedure, your body will need time to heal after receiving a DBS system. Recovery usually takes about six to eight weeks, although it varies from person to person. Gradually, you should get used to living with your system and be able to do more of the things that you want to do. Your doctor is the best source of information about your recovery time and process.
During the first 24 hours
- You will be closely monitored for any sign of complications.
- You will probably be able to eat a meal, get up and move around.
- Your doctor will provide medication to help control any surgical pain or headache. If your headache becomes too severe or you notice other disturbing effects, such as blurred vision, notify your doctor or the hospital staff.
- You may experience exhaustion and some mild confusion after surgery. This is usually only temporary and generally subsides within 24 to 48 hours.
Following the procedure, you will stay in the hospital for a period of time. The length of your hospital stay will vary depending upon the center where your surgery is performed. Some people will be discharged within several days after surgery, while others will remain longer.
After you leave the hospital
The months following your DBS surgery can be an exciting time as you become familiar with your DBS system. You may begin to return to some of the activities you enjoy. But the first few weeks after your procedure should be dedicated to healing and recovery. Your individual recovery time will vary depending on your body and your exact surgical procedure. Talk with your doctor about what to expect during your recovery.
During your stay in the hospital and for the first several weeks after surgery, the key goal is to prevent infection. Before you leave the hospital, your doctor will give you instructions on how to care for your incisions and what activities you should avoid during your recovery.
Your doctor may recommend these guidelines for reducing the risk of infection and irritation:
- Keep the incision areas clean and dry.
- Wash your hands before touching an incision area.
- If you wear a hat or head covering, make sure that it is very clean.
- Avoid using lotions or creams around incision areas unless instructed by your doctor.
- Avoid bumping or putting pressure on the incision areas. When riding in a car, consider placing a folded piece of soft cloth or a hand towel between the chest and the seat belt to help reduce pain and irritation.
- Do not pick or pull at the skin as it heals. This is especially important and sometimes can be difficult because your skin may itch as it heals.
Call your doctor or nurse immediately if you notice signs of infection, such as:
- A fever of 37.8° C or higher
- Redness or swelling at the incision or around your stitches
- Excessive pain around the incision site
- Any type of yellow or bloody drainage from the incision
Upon discharge, your doctor will provide you with instructions about activities that you should and should not do. In the first few weeks after your surgery, you should be able to resume a number of your normal daily activities—with some restrictions. Even if you feel great within a week or two, remember that your brain will also need time to heal.
- For families of younger patients, try to limit any rigorous activity or play. Take special care to ensure proper wound care for the young patient.
- Use caution in trying athletics or sports, as doing some of these activities too early can lead to an accident or harm.
- Talk with your doctor about what activities are acceptable during this time and what activities you will be able to participate in going forward and throughout your life.
Help your body heal
Recovery is a process that involves your entire body. Allow yourself time to rest and heal. It is important that you fully participate in your recovery. By following your doctor’s recommendations, you can avoid complications and give your body time to recover.
Things you can do:
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Take all of your medications as instructed by your medical team.
- Ask your medical team if you do not understand something.
- Wait to remove bandages until you hear from your doctor.
Things to watch out for
As you begin to recover, you may experience some discomfort around the incision areas or areas where the leads and extensions were placed. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding the use of pain medications.
Surgery always carries risk, and it is important to be mindful of how your body is feeling afterward. Your doctor can explain warning signs, including issues specific to your situation, and instruct you about what to do if you have symptoms. Call your doctor if you notice signs of infection such as fever, chills or excessive drainage, redness or increased pain at the incision site.
Be sure to read any guides that came with your system and pay close attention to sections labeled “warning” or “important.” Those sections contain important safety information.
Keep your appointments
You will probably have several appointments with your doctor in the days and weeks after surgery. It is important that you keep these appointments.
At these appointments, your doctor can:
- Check your recovery progress
- Be sure that your incisions are healing and your system is working properly
- Evaluate your system and make changes to settings (if needed)
Involve family and friends
Discuss what to expect as you recover with those around you. Keep the lines of communication open and be clear about how and when you need help.
Your family members and friends may want to:
- Attend your doctor appointments with you; they can take notes, organize any materials you receive, handle appointment scheduling and provide transportation
- Make arrangements for your recovery at home, including providing healthy meals, assisting you with getting dressed and maintaining a stress-free environment
- Watch for signs of complications
- Keep you on schedule with medications and rehabilitation
- Help to keep your spirits up