DBS programming helps ensure that patients are obtaining maximum symptom control from their deep brain stimulation therapy. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) involves the surgical implantation of thin wires (leads) in the brain that are connected to a small generator near the collarbone. Denver DBS Center neurosurgeons use the Abbott DBS system and perform surgery at the Neuroscience Center at Littleton Adventist Hospital.
DBS surgery is the first phase of DBS. Then, the generator must be programmed to specifically address patient symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, epilepsy, and dystonia. This is often referred to as DBS programming or frequency programming.
FAQs About DBS Programming
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How does DBS programming work?
Once activated and programmed, the DBS system works by sending painless electrical signals to an area of the brain that controls movement. DBS systems are precisely programmed for each patient’s unique needs. The Denver DBS Center uses the Abbott DBS system, which has the latest, FDA-approved technology and an iOS platform to allow for remote DBS programming and to give patients some control over their settings.
When is initial DBS programming done?
After the DBS system electrodes and generator are in place, patients typically have initial DBS frequency programming done a month or two after their final DBS surgery. Patients typically need their DBS generator replaced every 4-8 years, and initial programming takes place a few weeks after DBS generator replacement.
Up until recently, patients were required to go into their neurologist’s office to have their initial programming completed. However, now with the Abbott remote DBS programming system and telehealth options more readily available, patients can benefit from remote DBS programming. Done in the convenience of the patient’s home, remote DBS programming is available for initial DBS programming as well as ongoing adjustments to frequency programming.
How often do you need DBS programming?
It often takes 6 months for the ideal DBS programming settings to be in place and for patients to realize the full benefits of deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s, DBS for essential tremor treatment, and DBS for other movement disorders. Every patient’s disease progresses at different rates, which requires adjustments to the DBS system.
When programming a DBS system and making subsequent adjustments, your neurologist or neurosurgeon will be looking for how your body responds to different levels of stimulation. With programming adjustments to the DBS system and medications, most patients are able to find optimal symptom relief within a year. Some patients need DBS programming adjustments as often as every 3 months, based on the progression of their disease.
What happens during DBS programming?
During DBS programming and remote DBS programming, your Denver neurosurgeon or neurologist will ask you to perform simple tasks to assess your functionality. You’ll also be asked about your disease symptoms and how those change with various settings of the DBS system. Your doctor will then adjust your DBS treatment settings and, if needed, make adjustments to your medication regimen. The initial DBS frequency programming and subsequent DBS programming adjustments can now be made in person or remotely.
What will I feel during DBS programming?
When the DBS system is sending stimulation to the areas of the brain causing symptoms, patients should not feel anything. Some patients comment that when the DBS system is first turned on, they experience a weird sensation like tingling, tightening, or pins and needles. Many patients experience almost immediate relief of some of their symptoms. The goal of DBS programming is to make adjustments so that the patient doesn’t notice the device while the symptoms of their disease are minimized to the greatest extent possible.
Do I have to go in person for DBS programming?
Denver DBS Center is now one of the first in the country to offer remote DBS programming. This allows patients to get their DBS system adjusted from home. This feature makes it easier for patients who live in rural areas or patients who do not have access to transportation to get the programming adjustments they need to continue enjoying the deep brain stimulation benefits. Learn more about remote DBS programming.