Surgery for Parkinson’s Disease

Surgery for Parkinsons DiseaseBased on how severe your condition is and your medical profile, your doctor  may suggest surgery as one treatment option for Parkinson's disease. There are several different surgeries for Parkinson's disease, including DBS (deep brain stimulation).

The most experience

Surgeons at the OHSU Brain Institute have the most experience with deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery. Dr. Kim Burchiel, leads our team of neurological DBS surgeons and has performed more than 1000 DBS surgeries throughout his career. Neurosurgeons performing DBS surgery should have fellowship training in stereotactic or functional surgery following neurosurgery residency.

First in the US

As part of an investigational device exemption physician-sponsored clinical trial, Dr. Kim Burchiel was the first neurosurgeon in the United States to use DBS to treat successfully a patient with Parkinson's disease in 1990.

Dr. Kim Burchiel developed a new method of implanting deep brain stimulation electrodes to treat Parkinson disease and essential tremor, under general anesthesia (while you are asleep), using an intraoperative computed tomography (CT) scanner in 2011. Before this procedure, DBS patients were awake. OHSU Brain Institute is the only hospital in the Pacific Northwest with the capability to perform DBS surgery while patients are asleep.


DBS was first developed in France in 1987. DBS was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for use in treating a movement disorder known as essential tremor (ET) in 1997 and for Parkinson's disease (PD) in 2002.

What is DBS?

DBS is a neurosurgical procedure used most commonly to treat the variety of debilitating neurological symptoms of:

  • Parkinson’s disease, such as tremor, rigidity/stiffness, slowed movement (bradykinesia), and walking (gait) problems.
  • Essential tremor, a common neurological movement disorder.

A battery-operated medical device called an internal pulse generator (IPG) and electrodes that pump steady low-voltage pulses of electricity to targeted areas that control movement are surgically implanted. The device is like a pacemaker for the brain. Low-voltage electric pulses are thought to block the abnormal nerve signals and/or change the brain chemicals that cause the tremors and other movement disorder symptoms.

What is included in a DBS system?

It consists of three components: 

  • the lead (electrode) - a thin (millimeters), insulated wire, which is inserted through a small opening (bur hole) in the skull and the tip of the electrode is positioned within the targeted  brain area,
  • the extension - an insulated wire that is passed under the skin of the head, neck, and shoulder, connecting the lead to the IPG and
  • the IPG - this battery-operated device is usually implanted under the skin near the collarbone.  In some cases it may be implanted lower in the chest or under the skin over the abdomen. The battery can last 3-5 years and can be replaced.