Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare is a national leader in the treatment of cerebral palsy and complex movement disorders. Gillette is one of a few hospitals in the nation to offer a pediatric deep brain stimulation (DBS) program to treat involuntary movements (dystonia) that resist other treatment options.

Why Choose Gillette?

  • Our experts have in-depth knowledge of DBS as a treatment option for patients who have primary or secondary dystonia.
  • We offer a Complex Movement Disorders Clinic—a team of specialists just for patients who have conditions that cause involuntary or uncontrolled movements.
  • Our hospital features state-of-the-art technology and facilities designed for your needs.
  • With DBS treatment, our goal is to help patients improve function and enhance their quality of life.


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a treatment that was developed for adults who have Parkinson’s disease. It’s now used to treat children, teens and adults who have dystonia—a complex movement disorder that causes uncontrollable, repetitive, stiff, twisting or exaggerated motions.

DBS treatment involves implanting a medical device—called a neurostimulator—under the surface of the skin in the abdomen or chest. In addition, a soft, flexible wire—called a lead—is  implanted in the brain. The neurostimulator delivers continuous low-voltage electrical impulses to targeted areas of the brain. The electrical impulses block or change the abnormally functioning neurons that cause uncontrolled movement. This provides relief to patients who have uncontrollable movements that don’t improve with medication.

Candidates for Deep Brain Stimulation

At Gillette, we might treat the following types of dystonia using deep brain stimulation (DBS).

  • Primary dystonia means a person was born with the disorder and inherited it through his or her genes.
  • Secondary dystonia means the dystonia is caused by another condition, such as cerebral palsy.

What to Expect

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) can help control symptoms, but it’s not a cure for dystonia. When the DBS is turned on, it delivers stimulation that might decrease symptoms. It might take months or up to a year for patients to see the full effect of DBS.

DBS is:

  • Adjustable: The stimulation settings can be adjusted to meet the patient’s specific needs.
  • Reversible: DBS does not destroy or remove any part of the brain, and the neurostimulator can be removed.

A neurostimulator is a small device similar to a pacemaker. A surgeon implants it within the abdomen or chest. Attached to the neurostimulator is an extension wire with a lead at the end. The surgeon implants the lead into the patient’s brain. The neurostimulator helps regulate brain activity and controls symptoms by sending electrical signals through the lead to certain areas of the brain.

Most patients will have a two-stage surgery to implant the DBS system. During the first stage, a neurosurgeon implants leads on both sides of the brain. Patients should expect to stay in the hospital for about two days after this procedure.

Two weeks later, the neurosurgeon performs stage 2, implanting the neurostimulator in the abdomen or chest. Patients should expect to stay in the hospital a day or two after the implantation.
The DBS neurostimulator will be turned on after stage 2 of DBS surgery. The device is programmed to send stimulation 24 hours a day. After the neurostimulator is turned on, patients return for up to four visits, every four to six weeks, to continue programming the stimulator.

Deep Brain Stimulation Outcomes

Results show that deep brain stimulation (DBS) can be an effective treatment for primary and secondary dystonia. Typically, the greatest benefit occurs for patients who have primary dystonia and receive stimulation to the part of the brain called the globus pallidus internus (GPi). Results are particularly positive in patients who have a lesser degree of disability and in patients who have surgery at an early age.

As with any brain surgery, there are risks associated with DBS. Side effects are possible, but typically, they aren’t permanent, and they can be reduced or eliminated by adjusting the neurostimulator’s stimulation settings.

Our Deep Brain Stimulation Services

At Gillette, each patient’s care path is unique. A patient who has an implanted deep brain stimulation (DBS) system often sees a wide range of specialists who work together to support the patient’s goals. Some of the specialties and services most often associated with DBS treatment include:

Child life specialists
Gait and motion analysis
Rehabilitation therapies
Radiology and imaging
Sleep medicine
Social work

For more information about the services we provide at Gillette, search Conditions and Care.

Why Gillette?

Because all children deserve a lifetime of amazing health care.

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