Deep brain stimulation or DBS is increasingly recognized as an effective therapeutic tool for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. However, the efficacy of the treatment depends on careful selection of patients based on well-defined criteria. When used for appropriate or well-selected candidates, it can significantly improve motor symptoms and will continue to provide benefits for as long as the treatment is provided. DBS is in fact the only US FDA-approved treatment due to overwhelmingly positive outcomes. Most research indicates improvement by 30 to 60% in terms of motor score evaluations following DBS (if patients are well-selected) and an average reduction of medication use by 50% following subthalamic nucleus DBS.
Who Is An Ideal Candidate For DBS?
Although DBS is an effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease, not every patient is a suitable candidate for the treatment. The types of patients who will benefit from DBS include:
Patients who experience uncontrollable tremors with current treatment
Patients who obtain relief from symptoms with medications such as levodopa, but only experience benefits while taking the medication
Patients who experience shorter functional or ‘on’ periods as compared to dysfunctional or ‘off’ periods
Patients who may get relief with higher or more frequent medication but prefer to avoid them because of severe side effects
Patients who show continued responsiveness to medications, although the duration of medication effects may be reduced
Patients with a treatment history involving various combinations of medications under the guidance of a Parkinson’s expert
If you’re still unsure as to whether you will benefit from DBS, simply use the checklist below.
If you find these requirements confusing, simply understand that if you are unhappy with the quality of life provided by your current treatment, DBS should be considered as an option.
Speak To A Parkinson’s Expert
A Parkinson’s expert will be best qualified to decide on whether you are a suitable candidate for DBS. This decision involves various evaluation procedures, tests, and consultation, making it important for patients and caregivers to recognize the long-term commitment involved. A Parkinson’s expert will also help you understand the benefits that you can expect to experience through DBS, as well as its limitations, so that you have realistic expectations from the procedure.
In most cases where DBS is recommended, patients are likely to experience improvements in mobility and movement, boosting quality of life, but the treatment cannot restore perfect health or reverse Parkinson’s disease.
A Word Of Caution
Although DBS is a promising treatment, it is only effective for Parkinson’s disease and is not effective for Parkinson plus syndrome disorders such as multiple system atrophy (MSA), corticobasal degeneration (CBD), and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).
As there is no foolproof diagnostic tool to differentiate between Parkinson’s disease and Parkinson’s plus syndrome disorders within the first 5 years of symptom onset, DBS is not recommended during this period.