Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS): Before Your Surgery
Facebook Tweet Email Share

Main Content

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS): Before Your Surgery

Side view of electrode in brain, with wire connecting to generator located in chest

What is deep brain stimulation surgery?

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) uses electrical pulses to stimulate an area of the brain. This can change the activity in that area of the brain. You will need surgery to implant the devices that stimulate the brain.

Most often, DBS is used to relieve symptoms of Parkinson's disease when they can't be controlled by medicines. But it can also be used for other conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The devices are implanted in two steps. First, your doctor will drill two small holes in your skull. Then he or she will place tiny wire electrodes in your brain. You may be awake during the surgery so that you can help the doctor place the electrodes where they will work best. But your doctor might also use a type of imaging (MRI) to help place the electrodes.

It may seem scary to be awake during this surgery. But your scalp will be numb. You won't feel any pain.

The second step is to implant a small, battery-powered generator. It's placed under the skin of your chest near your collarbone. This device is then connected to the electrodes in your brain. To do this, the doctor will use a small wire that runs under your scalp and skin. You won't be awake for this surgery.

After the surgery, you will have a short hospital stay. The generator will be turned on before you go home.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking it before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about when to bathe or shower before your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • Your head will be secured in a metal frame to keep it still during surgery. You may have an imaging test (MRI) while your head is in the frame. It helps the doctor find the right area of your brain.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The surgery will take about 3 to 4 hours.

Going home

  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.
  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter D125 in the search box to learn more about "Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS): Before Your Surgery".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.