What Is DBS?

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has benefited more than 100,000 patients over a quarter of a century. The DBS system sends electrical signals into one of three target areas of the brain that control movement: Subthalamic Nucleus-STN; Globus Pallidus pars interna-GPi; and Ventral Intermediate Nucleus of the Thalamus-Vim. Studies have shown that these signals translate into improved symptoms for patients with movement conditions—mainly Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and essential tremor. DBS surgery does not cure the disease, but can help reduce the severity of symptoms, such as:

  • Tremors
  • Rigidity
  • Stiffness
  • Slow movements
  • Walking problems
  • Essential tremor
  • Abnormal movements and and postures of dystonia 
  • Anxiety and compulsive behaviors in OCD patients


DBS surgery consists of three steps:

  • Placement of an extremely thin, insulated wire known as a lead (electrode) into the brain
  • Implantation of a device, known as generator (neurostimulator), near the collarbone
  • Attachment of the lead and generator via a thin, insulated wire known as an extension

The Denver DBS Center is only one of a few facilities in the world to offer both Asleep DBS and Awake DBS, both of which are safe and effective.


Asleep DBS

  • Entails two surgeries, both of which are performed with the patient asleep.
  • MRI/CT performed during the first surgery, eliminating a pre-surgery visit.
  • Entire procedure takes 2-3 hours; electrode placement is typically within 1 millimeter of target.
  • Electrode testing not necessary.


Watch a news story featuring Dr. David Vansickle and a patient who underwent asleep DBS.



Awake DBS

  • Requires three surgeries, two of which are performed while the patient is awake.
  • MRI/CT must take place prior to surgery, requiring an additional procedure and visit.
  • Electrode placement takes 4-6 hours; placement is within 1-2 millimeters of target.
  • Electrode testing conducted during surgery to ensure proper placement.