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Life After Deep Brain Stimulation: Lifestyle Changes and What to Avoid

Life After Deep Brain Stimulation: Lifestyle Changes and What to Avoid

Adjusting to living with Deep Brain Stimulation can be a long process, starting with immediate care after surgery, and continuing life with the device for over 15 years.

Right after surgery, it’s important to take care of incisions and rest well to ensure a speedy recovery. After recovering from the surgery for about a month, the device can be programmed.

Programming can take a few appointments to get the settings right. Once the ideal settings are found, patients can return for follow-ups every 6 months to a year. 

Patients can resume most normal day-to-day activities a couple of months after surgery. However, they may need to make some changes to their lifestyle to improve outcomes or avoid unnecessary side effects. 

After DBS, patients must avoid certain activities and circumstances such as rigorous activity and sports, heat around the device, and magnetic fields. These can cause the device to turn off or can damage it. 

Here are some key points from the article:

  • After surgery, focus on rest and keep your incisions clean.

  • Before programming can start you need to recover for a month.

  • Programming can take a few sessions to find the perfect setting.

  • You can resume most normal activities with doctor’s approval such as driving, and traveling, and gain independence 1-2 months after surgery.

  • You might need to change some lifestyle factors such as diet to accommodate your new life with DBS.

  • With a DBS device, you need to avoid certain activities such as contact sports, high-demand exercises, demanding chores, and heat therapy to maintain your device.

  • You need to avoid strong electromagnetic fields such as going through security scanners as they can interfere with your device. However, common household appliances like microwaves are fine to use.

What should you do right after Deep Brain Stimulation surgery?

Right after Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, follow your doctor’s orders. Continue taking your medications as you do. You can take a prescription or an over-the-counter painkiller to make yourself more comfortable.

Care for your incisions as per your doctor’s orders, and watch out for any signs of infection around them. You can take a shower 2-3 after surgery. After that, you can focus on resting and recovering from surgery.

Instructions On How To Recover After Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery

Should you take your medications after Deep Brain Stimulation surgery?

Yes, you should continue taking your medications as per your doctor’s orders. Do not try to quit or reduce your medications on your own.

How can you manage pain after Deep Brain Stimulation surgery?

Your doctor will prescribe you a painkiller which you can use for a few days after surgery. Afterward, you can switch to an over-the-counter painkiller such as paracetamol, aka acetaminophen, brand name Tylenol.

How can you care for your incisions?

You can dress your incisions as per your doctor’s orders. Keep them clean and change dressings every day for 2-3 days after surgery.

After 2-3 days, you can take the dressings out, take a shower, and keep them clean, dry, and open. Avoid touching or scratching your incisions to prevent infections. Do not apply any creams or ointments on your incisions.

Depending on your surgeon’s preferences, your incisions can be covered with staples, regular stitches, dissolvable stitches, skin glue, or skin tape.

Ask your doctor for their instructions on how to care for your specific case, and when you need to get your stitches removed if that’s the case.

What signs of infection should you watch for?

You should watch out for redness, swelling, itching, and tenderness around your incisions. If the infection is severe, the incisions might leak pus and you might develop a fever. Contact your doctor and seek emergency intervention if you see any sign of infection.

When can you take a shower after Deep Brain Stimulation surgery?

You can take a shower 2-3 days after surgery when you take off your wound dressings. Opt for gentle soap or baby shampoo while showering, and do not rub or scrub the incisions; instead, let the water flow over them.

After showering, gently pat dry the area and allow it to air dry. Avoid taking baths until the incisions have fully healed to prevent infection.

How can you care for your hair after Deep Brain Stimulation surgery?

You should use baby shampoo on your scalp until your incisions are healed. Avoid cutting your hair with clippers and dying your hair for 6-8 weeks after surgery. 

How can you heal more quickly after Deep Brain Stimulation surgery?

To speed up your healing process make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions first.

Dress your wounds as directed by your doctor, and watch out for signs of infection. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and have a healthy diet to support your healing process.

Walk every day to get some low-impact exercise and improve circulation. Rest well between your walking sessions.

What is the microlesion effect after Deep Brain Stimulation surgery?

The microlesion effect is when you experience a temporary reduction in your symptoms after the surgery, also known as the honeymoon phase. This microlesion effect can last for a couple of days to a few weeks.

During this phase, avoid reducing your medication doses on your own, as the reduction of symptoms is temporary. 

When the microlesion effect is gone, your Deep Brain Stimulation device can be programmed.

When is the Deep Brain Stimulation device programmed?

The Deep Brain Stimulation device will be programmed a month after the surgery when the microlesion effect is gone.

Device Programming After Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery Scaled 1

What happens during Deep Brain Stimulation programming sessions?

During programming sessions, the doctor will try out multiple device settings to find the optimal one. They will find the lower threshold of stimulation where stimulation becomes effective, and increase stimulation in intervals.

At every interval, they’ll ask you how you feel and will ask you to perform some tasks to test how your abilities are improving. 

When they reach a point where side effects come up, they have found the upper threshold for stimulation. The doctor will then configure your patient programmer with pre-set stimulation parameters.

When will you have follow-up appointments for Deep Brain Stimulation?

You’ll visit the doctor every 6 months to a year for follow-ups once your initial programming visits are done, and an ideal setting is found. You might not need programming at every visit. 

How long until the full effects of Deep Brain Stimulation are noticeable?

You will start feeling the full effects of Deep Brain Stimulation 6 months to a year after surgery and programming.

What are the signs that Deep Brain Stimulation is working?

When Deep Brain Stimulation starts working, you’ll notice a decrease in your symptoms such as tremors, rigidity, involuntary movements, and muscle contractions.

Depending on your lead placement, your doctor can decrease your medications, which is an indication that DBS is working.

You’ll be able to start performing daily tasks such as brushing your teeth and eating by yourself.

How will Deep Brain Stimulation affect your daily life?

Once you are healed from surgery, and stimulation starts to take effect, your daily life and routines will improve. You can become more independent; go back to work, drive yourself to places, and travel as you wish.

When you are healed, you can go back to performing your daily chores, as long as you don’t overexert yourself.

Normal Activities And Lifetyle After Deep Brain Stimulation Scaled 1

When can you resume normal activities after Deep Brain Stimulation surgery?

You can resume most normal activities 2 months after Deep Brain Stimulation surgery.

Can you work with a Deep Brain Stimulation device?

Yes, when your device is turned on and you have adapted to living with the device 2-3 months after surgery, you can resume your work with your doctor’s approval.

Can I drive after Deep Brain Stimulation surgery?

Yes, you can drive after Deep Brain Stimulation with your doctor’s approval around a month after surgery.

Can I travel with a Deep Brain Stimulation device?

Yes, you can travel and fly 2 weeks after Deep Brain Stimulation surgery.

How will Deep Brain Stimulation affect your lifestyle?

After deep brain stimulation, you need to change some lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking, and diet to avoid complications and side effects.

DBS treatment won’t have a negative effect on your intimate life or sleep. Once stimulation takes effect, you can consider more serious lifestyle factors, such as living by yourself.

Can you smoke after Deep Brain Stimulation?

No, patients must avoid cigarettes, vapes, and other nicotine products to prevent pneumonia and other complications after Deep Brain Stimulation.

Can you drink alcohol after Deep Brain Stimulation?

No, patients should avoid drinking alcohol for at least 2 weeks after surgery. After 2 weeks, it’s still best to avoid alcohol as it can inhibit one’s balance and cause falls.

Should you change your diet after Deep Brain Stimulation?

You should consider changing your diet and eating habits after Deep Brain Stimulation, especially if you have a metabolic disease such as diabetes.

Weight gain is the most common side effect of DBS, affecting more than 90% of patients.  Patients should consult with a registered dietician to revise their diet for their new lifestyle if weight gain would negatively affect their health.

Can Deep Brain Stimulation affect your sleep?

Yes, patients tend to have better sleep quality once stimulation is turned on. Your doctor might even program a special sleep setting on your device to further help with sleep.

Can you have intercourse after Deep Brain Stimulation?

Yes, you can have intercourse 2 weeks after the surgery. If you are feeling an uncharacteristic change in your drive, contact your neurologist to see if it’s a side effect of stimulation.

Can you live alone after Deep Brain Stimulation?

Yes, but patients must live with a care partner for at least 2 months after surgery and can transition into living alone with the doctor’s approval. This is because patients aren’t allowed to perform chores or drive themselves immediately after surgery.

What should you avoid after Deep Brain Stimulation?

After Deep Brain stimulation, you should avoid rigorous exercise, sudden movements and contact sports, treatments that involve heat, and strong electromagnetic fields as they can interfere with device settings or cause damage.

What To Avoid After Deep Brain Stimulation

Should you avoid sports or exercise after Deep Brain Stimulation?

You should avoid strenuous exercises such as lifting heavy weights, stretching, bending, going to the gym, and household chores for 1-2 months after surgery, and limit your exercise to daily walks.

After 1-2 months you can incorporate more moderate exercise into your routine with your doctor’s approval. Avoid heavy exercises and contact sports as they can damage your device.

Should you avoid swimming after Deep Brain Stimulation?

You should avoid swimming in the sea, pools, and hot tubs for 2 months after surgery. After 2 months, you can swim. Some patients might see a decrease in their ability to swim after surgery, so make sure you practice swimming in a safe environemnt.

Can you participate in high-altitude activities after Deep Brain Stimulation?

Yes, you can participate in high-altitude hiking, climbing, and travel by plane after Deep Brain Stimulation. High altitudes won’t damage your device.

Can you get massages or physical therapy after Deep Brain Stimulation?

Yes, make sure to inform your massage therapist or physical therapist that you have a DBS device. They should avoid using manual force and heat around the battery and the cables.

Can you use heating pads or electric blankets after Deep Brain Stimulation?

No, heating pads or electric blankets, and excessive heat around the device in general can damage it and should be avoided.

Can you use electronic devices after Deep Brain Stimulation?

Yes, most household electronic items such as cellphones, electric appliances, and microwaves are safe to use after Deep Brain Stimulation.

Can you get MRI, CT, and X-ray scans after Deep Brain Stimulation?

You can get certain MRI scans if you have an MRI conditional Deep Brain Stimulation device.

You cannot get an MRI if your DBS device is not MRI-compatible

You can get CT scans and X-rays with a Deep Brain Stimulation device.

Can you be around strong magnetic fields after Deep Brain Stimulation?

No, patients can’t be around strong magnetic fields or electrical fields because they can interfere with the device. 

Patients should avoid places that have industrial-level magnets, such as metal recycling plants, wrecking yards, radars, electric generators, and high-voltage power lines.

Can you go through metal detectors or security scanners after Deep Brain Stimulation?

No, you can’t go through metal detectors as the small metal parts in the device can set the alarm off, or the magnetic field of the detector can turn the device off.

Handheld detectors can’t also be placed over the battery, as it can interfere with the device. 

To avoid metal detectors at airports you must carry a card provided by your doctor or your device manufacturer which states you can’t go through detectors for medical reasons.

How can you maintain your Deep Brain Stimulation device?

You can maintain your Deep Brain Stimulation device by avoiding activities and situations that can damage it. Regularly check your battery levels and contact your doctor if you feel your symptoms are worsening.

How will Deep Brain Stimulation affect your future medical care?

You must inform your healthcare providers that you are receiving Deep Brain Stimulation treatment. 

If your device is not MRI conditional, you can’t have MRI scans. You can have certain MRI procedures with an MRI conditional device

You can’t receive treatments that involve heat or can’t receive treatments that have ultrasound. Receiving ultrasound scans for diagnostic purposes is permitted

If you need to get surgery, inform your surgeon about your DBS, as some surgical devices can interfere with the neurostimulator.

How does Deep Brain Stimulation affect existing medications?

If you have received DBS in the STN, your medication doses will be lowered significantly once the perfect device settings are achieved. There may not be a significant change in your medication doses if you receive DBS in the GPi.

Can you have dental procedures after Deep Brain Stimulation?

Avoid dental procedures for 2 months after the surgery. After that, you can receive dental treatments. Make sure to inform your dentist about your DBS device as some dental tools can cause problems with the device.

What is the life expectancy after Deep Brain Stimulation?

After Deep Brain Stimulation, patients have a survival rate of 98.4% in the first year, 96.8% survival rate in the first 3 years, 89.9% survival rate in the first 5 years, and 69.2 survival rate after 10 years with treatment according to research published in Frontiers in Neurology by Ahro Kim et al. 

This research also concludes that patients who had a later age of onset for the disease, and the patients who were more dependent on Parkinson’s medicine Levodopa were at a higher risk for mortality.

The most common cause of mortality was pneumonia related to disease progression.

What should you do during emergencies if you have Deep Brain Stimulation?

In case of an emergency, you should always have a card, or a bracelet on you at all times so that emergency services can quickly know you have a DBS device. This will help them avoid procedures that can cause problems with the DBS system.

During an emergency, it’s safe for patients with DBS to receive adrenaline or epi-pens, electric shocks with a defibrillator, and ECG/EKG and EEG scans.

What are the common side effects and complications after Deep Brain Stimulation surgery?

Weight gain, anxiety, depression, and apathy are the most common side effects of Deep Brain Stimulation. Most side effects of DBS can be treated or avoided by programming the device. The most common complication of DBS surgery is post-operative confusion due to the anesthesia and the sedatives received during surgery.

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