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Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Surgery

Dr. Tao Xie with essential tremor patient Patrick O'BrienPatrick O'Brien has essential tremor. His hands shook so much he could barely tie his own shoes. After DBS surgery, Patrick is enjoying a greater quality of life -- without tremors.
» Read his story.

With complex brain surgery, our patients tell us they find it generally reassuring to know their neurosurgeon has extensive experience. At the University of Chicago Medicine, our team of neuroscience experts have extensive experience performing deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery. As experienced researchers at the University of Chicago, our physicians are constantly refining DBS techniques and applying them as quickly as possible in patient care.

DBS is a complex stereotactic procedure, meaning the neurosurgeon uses a 3D coordinate brain mapping system to precisely access and treat areas in the brain that are otherwise difficult to reach. In stereotactic procedures, the neurosurgeon operates tiny, specialized surgical instruments through a very small hole in the skull while the patient is awake. This minimally invasive technique maximizes benefit and minimizes risk compared to traditional brain surgery.

DBS Surgery with Intraoperative CT

In addition to our team's unmatched expertise, we are the only hospital in the region with an intraoperative CT scanner in our operating room. This leading technology allows us to capture images of the brain during the procedure, which:

  • Enhances the accuracy and efficiency of device placement for the most effective results
  • Reduces the amount of time spent in surgery
  • Reduces the risk of post-operative infection.

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Conditions Treatable with DBS Surgery

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is FDA-approved for the treatment of patients with:

DBS surgery has gained acceptance as an effective treatment for select patients since the FDA approved it in 1997 for treatment of essential tremor, in 2002 for Parkinson’s disease and in 2003 for dystonia. Today, with multiple national and international randomized trials the efficacy of DBS is firmly established, and it is the most evidence-based procedure in neurosurgery.

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Eligibility Criteria for DBS

Our physicians will carefully assess whether you are a candidate for DBS surgery. Eligibility must be determined on an individual basis. Specific criteria varies by condition, but may include factors such as severity of symptoms, progression of disease, response to medication, ability to tolerate surgery, psychiatric health, other present conditions, support system, and more.

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How DBS Works

In DBS surgery, the neurosurgeon uses expert precision and sophisticated, computer-guided technology to navigate to targeted areas of the brain and implant single-wire electrodes. The wires are then connected to a pacemaker-like device, called an impulse generator, which is implanted under the chest below the collarbone. The device is then activated to control symptoms by stimulating the brain with carefully programmed electrical impulses.

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