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Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Surgery: What to Expect at Home

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

Your recovery

During your surgery, the doctor implanted electrodes in your brain and a pulse generator under the skin of your chest. Then the doctor connected the electrodes to the generator. This was done with a wire running under the skin of your head, neck, and shoulder.

You will probably have to stay in the hospital for a day or two after surgery. You may have some soreness where your skin was cut.

After you go home, you will likely have to go back to the doctor a number of times. The doctor will adjust the system so that it works best for your symptoms.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired.
  • Be active. Walking is a good choice.
  • For 4 to 6 weeks:
    • Avoid activities that strain your chest or upper arm muscles. This includes pushing a lawn mower or vacuum and mopping floors. It also includes swimming, or swinging a golf club or tennis racquet.
    • Do not raise your arm (the one on the side of your body where the pulse generator is located) above your shoulder.
    • Allow your body to heal. Don't move quickly or lift anything heavy until you are feeling better.
  • Many people are able to return to work within 1 to 2 weeks after surgery.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines or about taking the same medicines in a new way.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.

Incision care

  • If you have strips of tape on the incision, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • Keep the incision dry while it heals. Your doctor may recommend sponge baths for about 7 days, but don't get the incision wet. Your doctor will let you know when you may take showers. After a shower, pat the incision dry.
  • Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol on the incision. They can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it oozes fluid or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
  • Don't take a bath or get into a hot tub for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.

Ice

  • If the area feels sore or tender, put ice or a cold pack on it for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

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 or nurse call line 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.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You are confused or you don't know where you are.
  • You are very sleepy or hard to wake up.
  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that doesn't get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • You are bleeding a lot from the incision.
  • You are sick to your stomach or can't drink fluids.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness or swelling in your leg.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have problems.

Where can you learn more?

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

Enter D150 in the search box to learn more about "Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Surgery: What to Expect at Home".

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.