Deep brain stimulation

The main treatment for Parkinson's is medication. But if drug treatments no longer control your symptoms, you may be suitable for deep brain stimulation (DBS).

DBS is the main type of surgery used to treat Parkinson’s. Usually it’s most effective at improving motor (movement) symptoms, such as tremor, slowness of movement, rigidity and dyskinesia

A pulse generator (a device like a heart pacemaker) is placed under the skin around the chest or stomach area. It’s connected to 1 or 2 fine wires that are inserted into specific areas of your brain. 

When the pulse generator is switched on, the electrodes deliver high-frequency stimulation to the targeted area. This stimulation changes some of the electrical signals in the brain that cause the symptoms of Parkinson’s.


Key points

  • DBS is a type of surgery used to treat Parkinson’s. It may be an option for when your symptoms are no longer controlled well by medication.  
  • It's not a cure and doesn't stop Parkinson’s from progressing. But in many cases, it's given people with the condition better control of their motor (movement) symptoms includingtremor, speed of movements and involuntary movements.
  • Like all types of surgery, there are risks involved with DBS. Make sure you speak to your specialist to understand what complications there could be before going ahead. 
  • If you’re considering DBS, you’ll first need to undergo a series of tests to see if you’re suitable for this type of surgery. These tests will be carried out by a specialist team, including a neurologist and DBS nurse. 
  • DBS isn’t just a surgery but an ongoing treatment. As your condition progresses, the settings on your DBS device will need to be adjusted every few months, based on your symptoms.

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Deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's (PDF, 426KB)

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DBS and Me: Jo's story

Jo Yaldren was diagnosed with Parkinson's when she was just 47 years old. For Jo, DBS is the light at the end of a tunnel. It’s given her, and her family and friends, hope that she can improve her quality of life. 

Through a series of intimate and very personal short documentaries, Jo shares her journey as she navigates appointments with consultants, NHS waiting times and, she hopes, the surgery itself.

You can also read Jo's story, here.

Last updated

Next update due 2026

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