Within the last decade, the buzz surrounding deep brain stimulation has increased dramatically. The new tool has been shown to be useful and safe for the treatment of many different conditions, and has become an option that is more available to people (provided they are referred by a licensed medical doctor). Much like other technologies that have been invented in today’s ever-expanding society, the news of such things may be positive but still greatly misunderstood by those who have never had direct contact with the creations. In terms of deep brain stimulation, those who could benefit from it may be weary to try it because they do not know what to expect during treatment. Knowing what takes place during a typical deep brain stimulation session will allow people to make a more informed decision and be more comfortable while doing so.
What Occurs in a Deep Brain Stimulation Session for Major Depression?
Deep brain stimulation is a process whereby an electrode is implanted into the brain; it is regulated by a neurostimulator embedded under the collarbone. Impulses to the brain are used to control the symptoms of various illnesses, like major depression, etc. The deep brain stimulation procedure is a major surgery, which requires the use of general anaesthetic. Therefore, the technique will be carried out in a hospital or other medical facility that can accommodate such a surgery. Just before the surgery begins, a frame is fitted to the patient’s head, which makes it easier for surgeons to target the correct area of the brain. Brain imaging technologies are used to collect information about the target area, allowing doctors to accurately guide the necessary tools through the skull, without causing damage to the surrounding brain tissue.
Once this is complete, people receiving deep brain stimulation will receive an intravenous sedative, and the frame on the head will be securely fastened to the operating table. A small patch of hair is shaved away, so that the brain can be accessed without it getting in the way. The scalp is thoroughly washed, as to prevent any foreign bacteria from entering the body once the skull has been opened. Afterwards (once the anaesthesia is in full effect), a small incision is made on the top of the head. An opening, approximately the size of a quarter, notes Neurosurgery.pitt.edu, is created. In some cases, the brain will be stimulated on both sides, meaning that an incision on the opposite side must be made.
From here, the person having deep brain stimulation is woken up so that brain mapping can be completed. In other words, brain activity in the targeted area is measured to make final adjustments and ensure placement is correct. This portion of the operation requires the use of very small microelectrodes, which are placed in the brain. The surgeons listen to the brain’s activity by way of a speaker that is hooked up to the microelectrodes. Fine-tuning can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, says Neurosurgery.pitt.edu. For the best accuracy, the patient must remain calm, still and quiet during the mapping phase. After the correct target has been confirmed, a permanent deep brain stimulation electrode is inserted. Testing is run to ensure that there is not overstimulation. The electrode is turned up to intensity higher than what it will actually be set at. This intentionally induces unwanted side effects, such as tingling in the arms or legs, difficulty speaking, flashing lights, etc. Doing this allows the electrode to be calibrated so that the occurrence of the negative effects is less likely to occur. These symptoms are not painful for the patient, but may be described as strange.
After the deep brain stimulation procedure is done, people will be sent home after a night spent in the hospital. About a week later, patients return to have a neurostimulator surgically embedded underneath the collarbone. A wire is run from the electrode(s) in the brain, down the neck and to the neurostimulator. This implant allows people to control the electrical impulses to the brain, via a handheld remote control. Shortly after, a doctor will program the device, and necessary adjustments will be made frequently.
Deep brain stimulation is a therapy that is used to control the symptoms of various human illnesses, such as major depression. While the treatment has been successful, it requires major surgery on the brain, which can be dangerous. As an alternative to this procedure, deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (deep TMS) is a noninvasive and painless option to treat major depression and other conditions. For more information about this 30 minute procedure that is conducted for a few weeks to alleviate symptoms of depression in Los Angeles, contact Westside Neurotherapeutics by phone at 310.946.0008 or online at www.westsideneurotherapeutics.com.