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Asleep Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Surgery

What is Asleep DBS Surgery?

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical treatment in which electrodes are implanted in an area of the brain and connected to a pulse generator—a pacemaker-like device that is implanted just below the collarbone. The electrodes produce electrical impulses that deliver signals to areas of the brain that are affected by Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, essential tremor, and epilepsy.

Standard DBS is performed while you are awake and requires that you stop taking any medications to control your movement disorder. During the surgery, the neurosurgeon uses specialized monitoring equipment to determine a safe path to the location in the brain where the electrodes will be implanted.

The goal in asleep DBS is to accurately place the electrodes at the target selected by the surgeon preoperatively. This goal is accomplished using intraoperative imaging and guidance rather than cellular recordings, allowing you to sleep through the entire procedure.

Asleep DBS surgery is performed while you are unconscious under general anesthesia. A portable computed tomography (CT) machine is used both to target and to verify accurate placement of your DBS electrodes at the time of surgery.

Our research has found asleep placement of DBS electrodes to be just as safe and effective as traditional placement using awake surgery.

What is Asleep Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Surgery used for?

At Barrow Neurological Institute, asleep DBS is used to treat only the following movement disorders:

Am I a good candidate for Asleep Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Surgery?

Being awake during brain surgery, or the requirement to be off medicine, is concerning for some patients. Asleep DBS eliminates the need for you to be kept awake and off medicine.

Even if you are not apprehensive about the prospect of awake brain surgery, our research has found no additional benefit that would favor awake surgery over asleep DBS surgery. As such, good candidates for awake DBS almost always make excellent candidates for asleep DBS as well. Learn more about what makes a good candidate for DBS.

What can asleep DBS improve?

  • Dyskinesias
  • Dystonic movement
  • Motor fluctuations
  • Rigidity
  • Slowness
  • Seizures
  • Tremor

Patients may also see a reduction in medication usage after asleep DBS surgery.

Medically Reviewed by Francisco A. Ponce, MD on July 4, 2019