At the current time, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several different deep brain stimulation (DBS) devices from three separate manufacturers. While all DBS systems have the same basic components and work the same way, each device is unique. The differences are not drastic, but they represent innovation and improvement in care and care delivery. Variations, such as rechargeable batteries or electrodes that can deliver stimulation in novel ways or sense and record your brain signals, may lead you and your doctor to pick one over another. Available DBS devices for Parkinson’s include:
Abbott’s Infinity DBS was FDA-approved for Parkinson’s in 2016. Infinity’s brain leads allow directional stimulation, which is a potentially increased ability for the clinician to guide electrical stimulation toward areas associated with symptoms and away from side effects. This device operates with Apple iOS software and controllers. (For some, this may be a more familiar interface and offer an easier programming experience.) It also uses a non-rechargeable battery.
In 2021, Abbott developed a new technology (the first and only of its kind in the U.S.) that enables people with these devices to communicate with their clinician and receive DBS adjustments remotely, from their home or other location through WiFi, using the patient controller device.
For some, knowing they can connect with their doctor and adjustments anytime and anywhere makes life with DBS a little easier. (And while Abbott is the first to offer remote programming, this capability is likely to become more broadly available in the future.)
Medtronic’s DBS was the first to be FDA approved for Parkinson’s, in 1997. There are two different Activa batteries that can be used — one rechargeable, the other non-rechargeable. Clinicians program using an Android tablet.
Medtronic Percept gained FDA approval in 2020. This first-of-its-kind device can sense and record an individual’s unique brain signals. With this data, doctors may be able to correlate symptoms with brain signals, which might eventually lead to get more precise DBS adjustments. (The device’s brain leads also allow directional stimulation, a more focused approach to targeting symptoms and lessening side effects.) Patients can track their medications and symptoms in an electronic diary on their patient controller (a Samsung handheld), so that their doctor can look for patterns between symptoms and brain signal changes.
Boston Scientific’s Vercise became available for PD in Europe in 2012 and gained FDA approval in 2017. Vercise’s brain leads also allow directional stimulation. (But they use a different technique than Abbott’s and Medtronic’s to focus stimulation.) There are three different Vercise models. Some have rechargeable batteries. And some let the clinician visualize models of where leads are in your brain while finding or adjusting settings, which could enable more efficient programming.
Note that a clinical trial has not directly compared these DBS devices, so it’s not clear if one works “better” than another.
Across all DBS devices, rechargeable batteries may last up to 15 years (or more in some people) and non-rechargeable last, on average, about three to five years. The length of battery life depends on your individual settings. All current DBS devices also are safe for MRI, as long as certain safety 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 clinicians’ 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.
- DBS research studies
Some clinical trials are testing new DBS devices or models with different capabilities. (One example is a device that can deliver stimulation on demand, when needed to treat symptoms.) If you are interested in participating, ask what DBS research options may be available to you.