Am I a Candidate? DBS for Parkinson's Disease

If your Parkinson’s is no longer well controlled with medication, or your medication causes severe side effects, deep brain stimulation might be an option. The information on this page can help you learn if you are a good candidate for DBS.

Who is a good candidate for DBS for Parkinson’s?

You could be a good candidate if:

  • You are certain of idiopathic Parkinson's diagnosis.
  • You have Parkinson’s that got better with medication – especially levodopa or carbidopa-levodopa (Sinemet™).
  • Your medication is not working as well as it used to, but it still works fairly well.
  • Your medication is causing severe side effects.
  • It takes several medications to control your symptoms.
  • You are taking medication more often, or taking higher doses.

DBS works on the same symptoms as levodopa and related medications. If these worked well for you, there is a better chance DBS will work, too. Also, DBS works 24 hours a day.

You must be able to have general anesthesia. OHSU is the only major medical center in the Northwest offering “asleep” DBS under general anesthesia, and does so exclusively. We no longer perform the awake deep brain stimulation surgery.

Who is not a good DBS candidate?

You are not a good candidate for DBS if:

  • You have “Parkinson’s plus” symptoms or do not have a clear diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
  • You need full-body MRI scans, or certain head and chest MRI scans.
  • You cannot operate the internal pulse generator, also called the stimulator or IPG.
  • Test stimulation does not work.
  • You have certain brain conditions – such as ischemic brain disease, demyelinating brain disease or brain tumors.
  • You have significant intellectual or memory impairment.
  • You are not healthy enough to have surgery or have other untreated or chronic illnesses.

DBS can work well for certain people. But it can make certain symptoms of Parkinson’s worse. People with certain symptoms should not have DBS. These include:

  • Having Parkinson’s that is not a typical form of the disease.
  • Having “Parkinson’s plus” symptoms – such as multiple system atrophy, progressive supranuclear palsy or vascular parkinsonism.
  • Not functioning well, even with medication – for example, not being able to walk even when taking medication.
  • Having “end-stage” Parkinson’s.

At OHSU, we are committed to providing the best treatment for everyone with Parkinson’s, so our specialists will talk with you about other options if DBS is not right for you.

What if I am not a DBS candidate?

If you are not a DBS candidate, the neurologist talks to your primary health care provider and recommends other treatment options. For example, changing your medications could help.