Deep Brain Stimulation Side Effects

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Deep brain stimulation has been successful in helping to treat several conditions such as Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, major depression and chronic pain. The impulse generator that delivers the electrical impulses to targeted areas of the brain can be regulated from outside the body, and the whole procedure is therefore controlled by a neurologist, nurse or trained technician to guard against severe side effects.

Like any other neuropsychiatric intervention, deep brain stimulation can cause several notable side effects and healthcare providers aim to increase the efficacy of treatment while decreasing the risk of these side effects.

Some of the reported side effects of using deep brain stimulation include both neurological as well as psychiatric effects such as:

  • Apathy or listlessness and loss of interest in leisure and recreational activities as well as daily activities
  • Hallucinations that may be visual or auditory
  • Compulsive gambling and an urge to place bets that may lead to complete financial ruin
  • Increased libido and sexual appetite
  • Impaired judgement and cognitive dysfunction
  • Depression
  • Voyeurism and other perversions
  • Suicidal tendencies and attempts

Most of these side effects are temporary and can be reversed by calibrating and regulating the impulses sent to the brain via the impulse generator.

Complications and side effects can arise from the surgical procedure itself if the electrodes become displaced or dislodged for example and there is bleeding, swelling or bruising of the brain. Such complications can potentially lead to severe side effects such as personality changes, stroke, and encephalitis or infection of the brain.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 22, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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  1. Sheila Sekar Sheila Sekar India says:

    Can any one high light on inability to open the eyes after deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's.any exercises ?

    • Donna Sproat Donna Sproat United States says:

      When my generator is turned on, my one eye seems to blur more, and I have trouble opening it as wide as the other also, it gets very gritty. But it is minor compared to my other problems with the DBS

  2. Raymond Miller Raymond Miller United States says:

    I had DBS surgery in August, 2016 at Vanderbilt University hospital in Nashville, TN.  They turned on the generator on September 3rd, 2016.  Stopped my shaking and everything was wonderful for 2 days.  Third day I was severly emotional and like I was running on speed X 10.  After a week of that, I was reprogramed, turned down.  It was too low and did not control the shaking.  Went back on October 11, 2016 and they reprogramed me and this time moved from B section to A section in the brain.  Did well for a couple of days and then my blood pressure started running VERY high and not able to keep it down with medication.  Is this one of the side effects????

  3. Anita Klassen Anita Klassen Canada says:

    I had dbs for depression, recovery went well and then 3 months later I developed swelling on my head where the implants are and on the battery pack. My Dr. Has never seen this before. Anyone have this or an explanation for it?

  4. Donna Sproat Donna Sproat United States says:

    I had my DBS surgery for Essential tremor In January, I have had many programmings.  It does stop my tremor, but I can’t think as well and my words get garbled, they lower it, and the shake gets worse. I also had a sinus ear clogging thing going on before the surgery and when I turn on the device, it gets worse. Has anyone else had problems like these?

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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