Deep Brain Stimulation


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) with PerceptTM PC device by Medtronic

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is

  • A device used to help control seizures. Surgery is done to place the device, then it is programmed in the outpatient clinic by an epilepsy specialist.
  • A type of neuromodulation therapy. This means, DBS therapy is designed to change (modulate) how brain cells or networks work by giving electrical stimulation to brain areas involved in seizures.
  • Used together with seizure medications.

DBS therapy for the treatment of seizures was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2018. It has been approved in Europe, Australia, and Canada for several years.

DBS therapy targeting other areas of the brain is approved by FDA to treat other neurologic conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, Essential Tremor, Dystonia and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

  • DBS may be used to treat people 18 years and older with uncontrolled focal seizures when medicines alone don’t work. Uncontrolled seizures, also called drug resistant seizures, are seizures that do not respond to appropriate trials of seizure medicines.
  • DBS is an option for people whose seizures are not able to be treated with other types of epilepsy surgery which are aimed to cure some forms of epilepsy.

The DBS device is placed by a neurosurgeon during a procedure. Thin wires (called electrodes) carry electrical impulses from the neurostimulator device directly to the brain to stop brain signals that causes seizures.

  • The neurostimulator device is battery operated. It can be programmed like a tiny computer (similar to a cardiac pacemaker).
  • The device is programmed by your doctor or nurse to deliver electrical currents. The stimulation is delivered in a preset cycle and not directly in response to a seizure.
  • These electrical currents affect the excitability of certain circuits of the brain and help prevent seizures or reduce their frequency.
  • It can also capture and report information from the brain which can help the epilepsy care team to make other treatment decisions.

DBS does not cure epilepsy but can decrease the number and severity of seizures in many people. In general, results of clinical studies show

  • About half of people who have DBS have less seizures with this treatment.
  • For others, DBS therapy may reduce seizure severity.
  • The positive effect of DBS therapy may not be seen right away. As with other neuromodulation devices, it can take time for DBS therapy to show its full benefit.
  • Many patients have increased improvement of their seizures over time.
  • DBS is always used together with seizure medication. Like other devices used to treat epilepsy, if seizure control improves with DBS, seizure medicines may be lowered to lessen side effects.

Everyone who has seizures that are not well controlled after trying two or more antiseizure medications should talk with their epilepsy doctor about whether treatment with a device or surgical removal of the seizure focus could help them. An epilepsy specialist or an evaluation at an epilepsy center can help you explore all treatment options.

Presurgical Testing

Find an epilepsy specialist to help you explore this, and other, treatment options.

The DBS® System is manufactured by Medtronic. Additional information for patients and physicians is available on their website.

Authored By:

Elaine Kiriakopoulos MD, MSc

on Friday, September 14, 2018

Reviewed By:

Adriana Bermeo-Ovalle MD
Stephan U. Schuele MD, MPH

on Tuesday, December 22, 2020


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