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Deep Brain Stimulation – DBS

While a majority of people with cerebral palsy have spasticity, a small percentage have involuntary movements called dystonia or choreoathetosis. Whereas treatments such as Botox and intrathecal baclofen are effective in treating spasticity, they are not as effective in addressing dystonia or choreoathetosis. Deep brain stimulation, or DBS, has recently been used for some people with cerebral palsy who have dystonia or choreoathetosis.

DBS is often described as a “brain pacemaker”, as it uses electrodes that are strategically placed in the brain to ease symptoms of movement disorders. The pacemaker includes a chest-implanted generator that sends continuous pulses to the brain. Just as the heart pacemaker helps to correct an abnormal heart rhythm, the brain pacemaker uses these pulses to correct the abnormal patterns of activity in the brain

DBS is FDA-approved for use in several conditions including primary dystonia, which is a genetic condition. The dystonia seen in people with cerebral palsy is described as “secondary dystonia”; the primary condition is cerebral palsy. While DBS is not FDA-approved in patients with secondary dystonia, its off-label use has grown in patients with cerebral palsy. DBS is not effective in all people with cerebral palsy who have involuntary movements. It is typically used in patients with higher physical functional abilities, such as being able to walk and talk. To learn more about UCLA’s program on DBS, click here.

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