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The deep brain stimulator is a battery-operated, surgically-implanted device. It is sometimes called a pacemaker for the brain.
Deep brain stimulator components
The deep brain stimulator has three parts:
Each lead is a thin, insulated coiled wire with four electrodes at the end. The neurosurgeon places the electrodes in one of three areas of the brain, depending on the condition being treated.
The neurostimulator contains a battery that generates electrical signals that are delivered to the brain. It is implanted under the skin near the collarbone.
The battery lasts three to five years. If the battery needs to be changed, the entire neurostimulator must be replaced. This is an outpatient procedure and can be done under local or general anesthesia.
The extension is an insulated wire that is passed under the skin and connects a lead to the neurostimulator.
Precautions for patients with an implanted deep brain stimulator (DBS)
You will receive an identification card from Medtronic, the company that manufactures the deep brain stimulator, to carry with you at all times. Present the card if you are in a situation that might affect the device.
Patients with deep brain stimulators must avoid:
Diathermy, a type of deep heat treatment that uses high-frequency electrical currents
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that uses a full body coil or a head transmit coil that extends over the chest
Do not have any of the following procedures on skin or tissue directly over the stimulator:
Request a hand search at the airport. Avoid metal detectors and other screening devices. Present your ID card if there are questions about the device.
DBS patients and electronics
Most electrical devices will not harm the DBS system. Small magnets may accidentally turn the device off, if you are within inches of them. Examples include:
Refrigerator door magnets
After the device is implanted, your doctor will give you a hand-held device to turn the stimulator back on, if it is accidentally deactivated.
Accidentally deactivating the stimulator will not harm you. However, any symptoms that the device controlled or eliminated will return.