My 25 Stimulating Years with DBS in Parkinson's Disease

J Parkinsons Dis. 2017;7(s1):S33-S41. doi: 10.3233/JPD-179007.


The year 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the birth of modern deep brain stimulation (DBS), which was introduced by Benabid, Pollak et al. in 1987, initially targeting the motor thalamus to treat tremor, and subsequently targeting the subthalamic nucleus (STN) for treatment of symptoms of advanced Parkinson's disease (PD). STN DBS is undoubtedly "the most important discovery since levodopa", as stated by David Marsden in 1994. In 2014, The Lasker- DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award to "honor two scientists who developed deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus", was bestowed upon Benabid and DeLong. STN DBS remains today the main surgical procedure for PD, due to its effectiveness in ameliorating PD symptoms and because it is the only surgical procedure for PD that allows a radical decrease in medication. Future improvements of DBS include the possibility to deliver a "closed-loop", "on demand" stimulation, as highly preliminary studies suggest that it may improve both axial and appendicular symptoms and reduce side effects such as dysarthria. Even though DBS of the subthalamic nucleus is the main surgical procedure used today for patients with PD, all patients are not suitable for STN DBS; as a functional neurosurgeon performing since more than 25 years various surgical procedures the aim of which is not to save life but to improve the patient's quality of life, I consider that the surgery should be tailored to the patient's individual symptoms and needs, and that its safety is paramount.

Keywords: Parkinson’s disease; deep brain stimulation; globus pallidus; pallidotomy; quality of life; safety; stereotactic neurosurgery; subthalamic nucleus; thalamus.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Personal Narrative

MeSH terms

  • Deep Brain Stimulation / history*
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / standards
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / trends
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Neurosurgeons / history*
  • Neurosurgeons / standards
  • Parkinson Disease / surgery
  • Parkinson Disease / therapy*
  • Subthalamic Nucleus* / surgery