DBS RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS
The following is a guide only. For a comprehensive list, please refer to the downloadable patient information sheets (under ‘CONDITIONS TREATED’).
Insertion of the brain electrodes may cause bleeding (a ‘stroke’) during surgery. This occurs in around 1% of patients. Such bleeding, if it occurs, can be minor (not noticed by the patient) or major (causing disability or even death). This risk applies only at the time of surgery. Once safely implanted, DBS does not confer any greater risk of stroke.
Infection of the device occurs in around 5% risk of patients. This is usually treated with antibiotics and temporary removal of the battery.
Around 1% of patients will experience a seizure in the early post-operative period. Patients typically make a full recovery and a permanent predisposition to seizures (epilepsy) is uncommon.
In around 2% of patients, we may recommend adjusting the position of the brain electrodes (removal and re-implantation of electrodes).
Like any operation, there are many other general risks such as constipation, confusion, bladder retention, deep venous thrombosis (DVT), lung clots and wound healing issues. However, typically patients recover fairly quickly and are able to walk around the ward from the first day after surgery.
Side effects can arise due to stimulation or adjustments to medication. Thus these side effects (if they occur) can usually be reversed by adjusting stimulation and medication. Stimulation side effects can affect virtually any aspect of brain function including speech, mood, intellectual functioning, behaviour and movement. In some patients, side effects may mean accepting a lesser level of stimulation or accepting a side effect (e.g. softer speech) in order to receive a full level of stimulation.