Benefits and Risks – DBS Therapy

Although there is no cure for essential tremor, Medtronic Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Therapy for essential tremor has been proven to reduce the severity of the tremor in your arms and hands associated with essential tremor (ET).1

DBS does not cure the underlying condition that causes essential tremor. If the treatment is discontinued, your symptoms will return.


DBS has been shown to improve activities of daily living at 12 months1 that were previously difficult or impossible for people suffering with essential tremor.

Medtronic Deep Brain Stimulation Therapy is:

  • Safe – DBS was developed by Medtronic in the 1980s and approved for use for essential tremor in the United States in 1997. Medtronic DBS Therapy is currently approved to treat Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, and dystonia. Since 1997, more than 55,000 patients worldwide have benefited from Medtronic DBS Therapy.2
  • Effective – The Medtronic DBS System is made to deliver stimulation that may decrease some of your symptoms.
  • Adjustable – Stimulation parameters can be set by your clinician to meet your specific needs.
  • Reversible – Unlike other surgical treatments, DBS Therapy does not involve the removal of any part of your brain. The Medtronic DBS system may be removed if necessary.


Risks of DBS Therapy can include risks of surgery, side effects, or device complications. Implanting the neurostimulator system carries the same risks associated with any other brain surgery.

Your doctor can provide more information about these and other potential risks and side effects. Many side effects related to stimulation can be managed by adjusting the stimulation settings. Several follow-up visits may be needed to find the best stimulation settings for you.

Risks of surgery may include:

  • Paralysis, coma, and/or death
  • Bleeding inside the brain (intracranial haemorrhage)
  • Leakage of fluid surrounding the brain
  • Seizures
  • Infection
  • Allergic response to implanted materials
  • Temporary or permanent neurological complications
  • Confusion or attention problems
  • Pain at the surgery sites
  • Headache

Side Effects

Possible side effects of brain stimulation may include:

  • Tingling sensation (paraesthesia)
  • Temporary worsening of symptoms
  • Speech problems like whispering (dysarthria), and trouble forming words (dysphasia)
  • Vision problems (double vision)
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness (disequilibrium) 
  • Facial and limb muscle weakness or partial paralysis (paresis)
  • Abnormal, involuntary movements (chorea, dystonia, dyskinesia)
  • Movement problems or reduced coordination
  • Jolting or shocking sensation 
  • Numbness (hypoesthesia)

Device Complications

Possible device complications include:

  • Pain, lack of healing, or infection where the Medtronic DBS System components are implanted
  • Infection or scarring caused by the system components eroding through your skin
  • Readjustment surgery if the lead or lead/extension connector moves, or if mechanical or electrical problems occur
  • An allergic reaction to or rejection of the system by your body
  • Tissue damage resulting from programming parameters or a malfunction of one of the parts of the system


  1. Activa Therapy Clinical Summary, 2003
  2. Data on File at Medtronic, Inc.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2010

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