Background: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is the chronic electrical stimulation of selected target sites in the brain through stereotactically implanted electrodes. More than 150 000 patients around the world have been treated to date with DBS for medically intractable conditions. The indications for DBS include movement disorders, epilepsy, and some types of mental illness.
Methods: This review is based on relevant publications retrieved by a selective search in PubMed and the Cochrane Library, and on the current guidelines of the German Neurological Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Neurologie, DGN).
Results: DBS is usually performed to treat neurological diseases, most often movement disorders and, in particular, Parkinson's disease. Multiple randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have shown that DBS improves tremor, dyskinesia, and quality of life in patients with Parkinson's disease by 25% to 50%, depending on the rating scales used. DBS for tremor usually involves stimulation in the cerebello-thalamo-cortical regulatory loop. In an RCT of DBS for the treatment of primary generalized dystonia, the patients who underwent DBS experienced a 39.3% improvement of dystonia, compared to only 4.9% in the control group. Two multicenter trials of DBS for depression were terminated early because of a lack of efficacy.
Conclusion: DBS is an established treatment for various neurological and psychiatric diseases. It has been incorporated in the DGN guidelines and is now considered a standard treatment for advanced Parkinson's disease. The safety and efficacy of DBS can be expected to improve with the application of new technical developments in electrode geometry and new imaging techniques. Controlled trials would be helpful so that DBS could be extended to further indications, particularly psychiatric ones.