Frequently Asked Questions – DBS Therapy

What is deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy for essential tremor?

DBS is a surgical treatment designed to reduce the severity of the tremor in your arms and hands associated with essential tremor (ET).1

How does the treatment work?

DBS uses a surgically implanted medical device similar to a cardiac pacemaker to deliver electrical stimulation to the parts of the brain that control movement. Stimulation of these areas blocks the signals that cause the disabling motor symptoms of essential tremor. As a result, many individuals may achieve greater control over their body movements.

What are the implanted components of the DBS system?

The DBS system for essential tremor control consists of three implanted components:

  • One lead implanted in the brain
  • An extension threaded under the skin from the head, down the neck and into the upper chest
  • A neurostimulator implanted beneath the skin in the chest below the collarbone and connected to the extension

Is it possible to adjust the device settings?

The device settings and stimulation levels can be adjusted noninvasively by a clinician using a programming device.

What benefits does DBS offer?

Although there is no cure for essential tremor, DBS has been shown to reduce symptoms.1

What are the potential risks of DBS?

Risks of DBS can include risks of surgery, side effects, or device complications.

What is the history of DBS?

Neurologists and neurosurgeons have used electrical stimulation since the 1960s as a way to locate and distinguish specific sites in the brain. Brain stimulation technology was created in the 1980s.

Does DBS cure essential tremor?

There is no cure for essential tremor at this time. DBS therapy can treat some of the symptoms of essential tremor and improve function, but does not cure the underlying condition. If the treatment is discontinued, your symptoms will return.

How effective is DBS for treating essential tremor?

Individuals with essential tremor experience total or significant suppression of disabling tremor – significantly reducing disability. DBS may improve the activities of daily living for people with essential tremor.1


  1. Activa Therapy Clinical Summary, 2003

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 27 Sep 2010

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