Dr Samuel Bolitho

Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is an advanced neurosurgical procedure used to treat a variety of debilitating neurological and psychiatric conditions.

Deep Brain Stimulation involves the implantation of a medical device called a neurostimulator, which sends electrical impulses to specific areas of the brain. These impulses regulate abnormal impulses, or affect certain cells and chemicals within the brain. The procedure is reversible and adjustable.

Mechanism of Action

  1. Electrode Implantation: Thin electrodes are surgically implanted in specific areas of the brain, depending on the condition being treated.
  2. Neurostimulator Placement: The neurostimulator (similar to a pacemaker) is implanted under the skin in the chest.
  3. Control of Electrical Impulses: The neurostimulator sends controlled electrical impulses to the brain through the electrodes.
  4. Adjustability: The intensity of the stimulation can be adjusted externally without additional surgery.

Conditions Treated

DBS helps reduce symptoms like tremor, stiffness, slowness of movement, and walking problems.

Effective in reducing tremors in hands or arms.

Alleviates involuntary muscle contractions.

Can improve symptoms in severe, treatment-resistant OCD.

Reduces the frequency and intensity of seizures.

Helps in managing severe tics.

Used for treatment-resistant depression.

Effective in certain types of intractable pain, like cluster headaches and neuropathic pain.

Research is ongoing for its use in conditions like dementia (Alzheimer’s disease), addiction, and anorexia nervosa.

The Procedure

  1. Pre-surgical Assessment: Involves careful selection of candidates and detailed brain imaging.
  2. Surgical Procedure: Performed under local or general anaesthesia. Electrodes are placed in the brain, and the neurostimulator is implanted in the chest.
  3. Post-surgical Adjustment: Settings of the neurostimulator are adjusted over several sessions to optimise symptom control.

Risks and Side Effects

  • Surgical Risks: Include infection, haemorrhage, stroke, and hardware-related complications.
  • Side Effects: May include speech problems, muscle tightness, balance issues, and mood changes.


  • Symptom Control: Effective in reducing symptoms of various neurological and psychiatric disorders.
  • Quality of Life: Can significantly improve the quality of life for patients with debilitating conditions.
  • Adjustability and Reversibility: Allows for personalised treatment and can be reversed if necessary.

Deep Brain Stimulation represents a significant advancement in the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders. It offers hope and improved quality of life for patients with conditions that are otherwise difficult to manage. As research progresses, the scope of DBS in treating other conditions is likely to expand further. However, it is important to carefully evaluate candidates for this treatment and consider the potential risks and benefits.

If Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a treatment modality you would like to learn more about, please contact our rooms to make a booking.

Get In Touch

Dr Samuel Bolitho is a Sydney Neurologist with sub-specialised training in movement disorders, essential tremor and Parkinson’s Disease. He brings a rare mx of medical, neurological and computational neuroscience expertise to his role, as well as a wealth of experience in biomedical engineering.