The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved deep brain stimulation (DBS) devices from three different manufacturers for Parkinson’s. While each device is unique, all DBS systems have the same basic components and work in a similar fashion. Each includes thin wires, or leads, implanted in the brain, and a neurostimulator and battery, implanted in the chest (or abdomen). Doctors program the neurostimulator to deliver small electrical pulses through the leads into areas of the brain that control movement in order to lessen Parkinson’s disease (PD) symptoms. The differences in devices are not drastic, but they represent innovation and widen treatment options.
Medtronic’s DBS was the first to be FDA-approved for PD, in 1997. Over the past two decades, Medtronic has added newer systems with rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries may last up to 15 years, but require regular recharges. Non-rechargeable devices last, on average, about three to five years, depending on an individual’s settings. A person with Medtronic DBS can undergo most MRI scans safely when certain conditions are met.
Abbott St. Jude Medical Infinity
Abbott’s St. Jude Medical Infinity DBS was FDA-approved for Parkinson’s in 2016. The Infinity brain leads allow “directional stimulation,” which is a potentially increased ability to steer electrical stimulation toward symptoms and away from side effects. Abbott DBS operates with Apple iOS software and controllers (an iPad mini) for a possibly more familiar interface and easier programming experience. People with Abbott DBS may have most MRI scans safely when specific procedures are followed.
Boston Scientific Vercise
Boston Scientific’s Vercise became available for PD in Europe in 2012, and it gained FDA approval in 2017. Vercise’s brain leads contain more points (eight vs. four in other systems) through which doctors can precisely deliver and control electrical stimulation. Vercise uses a rechargeable battery, which may last up to 25 years. Similar to other DBS systems, Vercise is safe for most MRI scanning as long as several conditions are met.
When deciding on a DBS device with your doctor, consider:
· Whether you want a rechargeable battery
Rechargeable batteries may need fewer replacements over your lifetime, but they require regular recharging.
· How you’ll interact with the device
Everyone should be able to check their battery and turn their device on and off, but some people also want to adjust settings at home within parameters set by their doctor. Evaluate the user-friendliness of each device’s personal programmer.
· Your doctors’ experience and recommendation
Your neurosurgeon and movement disorder specialist may be more familiar with placing or programming one device, or may have more positive results with another.
Note that because a clinical trial has not directly compared the three DBS devices, it’s not clear if one works “better” than another.