Dianne's Story

Living with Essential Tremor

Dianne, essential tremor patient

Dianne, essential tremor patient

Dianne has lived with essential tremor (ET) since the 7th grade. Until recently, she was afraid to go out in public. "It's so hard to have people stare at you all the time," she says.

For Dianne, simple activities like going out to eat and writing checks became embarrassing. Driving was difficult because her right foot shook so much. Preparing meals was also challenging, especially when she needed to use a knife. "I cut myself more than once," she says.

As a teacher, Dianne had trouble doing the paperwork her job required. "Parents complained they couldn't read the report cards and other materials I sent home," says Dianne. "So my husband began to do them for me."

Eventually, Dianne met with a new neurologist who recommended Medtronic Deep Brain Stimulation for Essential Tremor to help control her tremors. Uncertain of the procedure, Dianne instead increased her use of medication, and found the side effects intolerable.

But the final straw for her came at school. One day she noticed a group of boys standing in the lunch line, imitating her shaking head. Unwilling to go on living that way, Dianne scheduled the surgery with her family's support.

How DBS Helped Dianne

DBS Therapy uses a surgically implanted medical device much like a cardiac pacemaker to deliver minute electrical stimulation to precisely targeted areas within the brain. The stimulation is delivered through a medical wire called a lead, which is tunnelled beneath the skin.

Stimulation of these areas blocks the signals that cause the disabling motor symptoms of essential tremor. The electrical stimulation can be non-invasively adjusted to maximize treatment benefits. As a result, individuals like Dianne achieve greater control over their body movements.1 

For Diane, the results were immediate. "They had me hold my hand out in front of my chest while it was still shaking. Then they adjusted the stimulator and the shaking just suddenly stopped. I'll never forget it," Dianne says.

Today, there's nothing holding Dianne back. "I write, sew, crochet, go out to eat, and work out at a health club," she says. "I've taken up piano and cello, and substitute teach at school." Dianne no longer needs help getting ready for school, and she can easily accomplish tasks that were difficult before DBS Therapy.

Risks of the Procedure and Stimulation

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. Dianne did experience some discomfort at the surgery site for a few weeks after the procedure.

"None of this would have been possible without DBS."

To celebrate their newfound freedom from essential tremor, Dianne and her husband decided to do something they never would have done before.

"We went on a cruise to the Bahamas," she says. "We had dinner at a table with strangers. We went snorkelling, and I could actually get the mask on my head with no problem. None of this would have been possible without DBS."


  1. Activa Therapy Clinical Summary, 2003. 


This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2010

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