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Parkinson’s Disease and Deep Brain Stimulation

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Find answers to your questions about deep brain stimulation.

Glossary

Glossary

Find definitions of technical terms in our glossary.

Parkinson’s Disease: A Progressive Disorder

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a slow, progressive brain condition that causes uncontrolled movement. Approximately seven to 10 million people around the world live with PD.1 Risk factors for PD include age, some environmental causes, head injury and genetics.

Causes and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

PD is known to affect an area of the brain called the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia regulate movement by controlling a balance of chemical and electrical signals between itself and other areas of the brain. When functioning properly, the basal ganglia make continuous adjustments to meet the needs of the body. When you have PD, the basal ganglia do not function properly.

When the basal ganglia function improperly, symptoms such as tremor can occur, making everyday activities more difficult. For example, drinking, eating and buttoning your shirt may be challenging. You may also experience increased social isolation as a result of the uncontrolled symptoms.

DBS for Parkinson’s symptoms

If you have PD and your symptoms have progressed to the point where you and your physician are discussing new therapy options, you may be considering an approved therapy called deep brain stimulation (DBS).

DBS is a therapy that helps reduce some of the symptoms of PD. A DBS device works by blocking electrical signals from reaching areas of the brain that cause motor symptoms. DBS therapy is adjustable, much like medication, and reversible, meaning it can be removed or turned off.

PD symptoms that DBS targets

The symptoms most commonly affected, or reduced, by DBS therapy include:

  • Tremor
  • Stiffness
  • Slowed movement
  • Medication complications—dyskinesias and fluctuations
  • Gait changes2

Proven effective for PD symptoms

Clinical studies have shown that DBS has:

  • Proven to give patients good quality “on” time (the period of time when symptoms are being controlled) for most of their waking hours.3
  • Shown 89% of caregivers and clinicians have rated overall patient symptom control improvement as good, very good or excellent.4
  • Reduced the need for medication, providing relief from medication side effects.5
  • Shown prolonged motor improvements up to 10 years.6

While DBS therapy is proven to help manage symptoms related to PD, it is important to understand that DBS is not a cure for PD. St. Jude Medical™ DBS therapy can treat some of the symptoms of PD, but does not cure the underlying condition.

DBS therapy is not for everyone, so it is important to talk with your physician about the benefits and risks. As with any surgery or therapy, DBS has risks and complications. See more about risks for DBS therapy.

Please note that this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice from your physician or other health care providers. You should always talk with your physician about your treatment and any symptoms you are experiencing.

REFERENCES

1. Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. (2015). Statistics on Parkinson’s. Retrieved from http://www.pdf.org/en/parkinson_statistics 
2. Yu, H., & Neimat, J. (2008). The treatment of movement disorders by deep brain stimulation. Neurotherapeutics, 5, 26-36.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nurt.2007.10.072
3. Okun, M. S., & Gallo, B. V. (2012) Subthalamic deep brain stimulation with a constant-current device in Parkinson's disease: An open-label randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Neurology, 11(2), 140-149.
4. St. Jude Medical. (2015). C-06-04 Interim Report.
5. St. Jude Medical. (2012). Parkinson’s Study. Final Report. n=136.
6. Castrioto, A. (2011). Ten-Year Outcome of Subthalamic Stimulation in Parkinson Disease. Archives of Neurology, 68(12), 1550-1556. n=18. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/archneurol.2011.182