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Why choose UNC Health for deep brain stimulation?

At UNC Health we have been doing Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) since 2004. We have performed over 1,000 cases. Our neurosurgeons have a combined 29 years in this field.

We are very passionate about the care we provide our patients. Our team excels at helping patients identify their treatment goals to improve their quality of life. Our multi-disciplinary approach ensures that our patients receive holistic care tailored to their needs.

When receiving care from our neuromodulation team you can ensure that we will establish a diagnosis, determine if your medication regimen is optimized, and receive on-going DBS maintenance therapy.


Deep Brain Stimulation Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How will DBS affect my symptoms?
    DBS is a proven effective treatment for Parkinson’s Disease, dystonia, and essential tremor. To discuss your specific concerns please discuss with your neurologist.
  2. Will DBS cure my Parkinson’s Disease or essential tremor?
    While there is not currently a cure for Parkinson’s Disease or essential tremor, Deep Brain Stimulation is a highly effective intervention to treat tremor, slowness of movement, and rigidity.
  3. How painful is DBS surgery?
    We minimize discomfort during and after the procedure. That said, headache, pain at incision sites, and over the pacemaker can occur. Your team will work with you to overcome these complaints as they arise.
  4. What is the appointment schedule like when considering pursuing DBS?
    First, you will have a visit to determine eligibility. Next, you may have a few more visits to determine the logistics for surgery. After the surgery you will have follow-up visits with your neurologist to determine programming.
  5. How are adjustments made for my device?
    Your neurologist can use their physician programmer to adjust multiple settings. Patients are also provided with a patient programmer at the time of surgery that allows them to view their settings.
  6. Will I still have to take medications after DBS?
    In some cases, DBS works so well that people are able to decrease or cease their medications. For many, DBS and medications work well together for the most improved benefit.
  7. Is it necessary to shave my hair for DBS surgery?
    Yes, your surgeon will shave your hair on the day of surgery.
  8. Are there risks to DBS surgery?
    Yes, DBS is a surgery, and all surgeries have risk. Risks are low but may include infection, bleeding, stroke, and seizures. We will review this information at the time of your evaluation.
  9. What are the possible side effects of DBS surgery?
    DBS may produce side effects, which depend on where the wires are placed. Generally, these can be minimized or controlled by making adjustments to the stimulation settings.
  10. Will the DBS procedure have scars or visible leads? Will others be able to tell I have DBS?
    No, you will not have any visible hardware. There will be small scars visible on the top of your head. There will also be a small bump over your chest where the pacemaker is placed. Often this can be hidden by clothing or natural hair growth.
  11. How long do the benefits of DBS last?
    In most cases the benefits of DBS last many years. DBS settings can be adjusted indefinitely into the future, and so can adapt to your disease progression.
  12. Can I get an MRI with DBS?
    Yes, you can. There are safety conditions that need to be met. Talk with your DBS Team prior to undergoing an MRI.
  13. Can I get an x-ray or CT scan with DBS?
    Yes, you can. There is no need to discuss with your neuromodulation team to proceed with these tests.
  14. Will metal detectors or security scanners disrupt DBS?
    These devices will not harm your DBS. When traveling through airport security many people opt to do a “pat down” security check instead of requiring someone with DBS walk through the security scanner. Some patients have experienced their device shutting off if passing through metal detectors, so we advise keeping your patient programmer handy to turn it back on.
  15. What is the battery life?
    There are two basic types of systems. A primary cell system will last between 2-5 years. A rechargeable battery may last up to 15 years without replacement but typically needs to be recharged weekly for about an hour using a wireless charging system.
  16. Who should I call if I have difficulty with my DBS device?
    Call your neurology team or your specific DBS system’s customer care line.
  17. Are there activity restrictions with DBS?
    There are very few activity restrictions. You should avoid any activity that has direct risk to the hardware (ie no contact sports). You will be able to return to most activities after you have healed from surgery. If you plan on having an MRI or surgery after DBS, you should contact your neurologist or DBS system’s customer care line for guidance.
  18. Will I be asleep during the procedure?
    You will be asleep during the majority of the procedure. You will only be awake during a critical part of the procedure while we ensure that your electrodes are well placed. Patients often report no pain at all. Please talk to your neurologist if you believe staying awake during the procedure would be a barrier to the procedure.
  19. Do I have the ability to participate in DBS research?
    Yes we have on-going research happening and participation in clinical trials.
  20. Does insurance cover DBS?
    Yes, DBS is typically covered by most insurances. We recommend reaching out to your insurance provider directly for specific questions related to coverage.


Are you interested in learning more about deep brain stimulation treatment at UNC Health? Reach out to us today!

If you are currently a UNC Neurology patient, talk with your current provider about your options. Check out our DBS Support Group if you are interested in learning general information about DBS and learn from those who are living with DBS. You do not have to be a UNC patient to participate. If you are not a patient at UNC, ask your primary care physician for a referral to UNC Neurology.