After Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Surgery


(608) 262-0550


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UW Health neurosurgeons in Madison, Wisconsin, perform deep brain stimulation (DBS) for selected patients with Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, tremor and other movement disorders.
Post Surgery for DBS Watch our video on post-surgical care following DBS
What should I do at home after electrode(s) placement surgery?
After the electrode placement surgery you will have surgical dressings on top of your head and behind your ear. You may notice a lump near the incision behind your ear. This is a cap at the end of the electrode which will be taken out during the generator placement surgery.
The head dressings should remain on for two days after surgery. After that, the dressing is not needed. You may shower but should not submerge your head under water for five days after the surgery. You may use a gentle shampoo such as baby shampoo and then pat the incision dry. Do not use hair conditioner. You should not use a comb or brush near the incision.
Cleaning the Surgical Site
You may have some oozing of blood from the incision sites especially right after the procedure and after removing stitches. Clean the sites with normal saline. Applying firm pressure with a sterile gauze pad or clean washcloth for approximately five to 10 minutes can stop this bleeding. In the unlikely event you are unable to stop the bleeding, go to the emergency room.
Other Post-surgery Care Recommendations
  • Do not apply any ointments or creams to the incision.
  • Avoid driving until after your two week follow-up visit. Do not drive while taking narcotics.
  • Do not lift items weighing more than 10 pounds (roughly a gallon of milk).
  • Walk as much as you can each day.
  • Avoid bending forward with your head down for at least two weeks.
  • You can wear a hat, scarf or turban after the surgery to cover the head incision from the sun four to six weeks after the surgery to minimize scarring.
  • Use Tylenol® for any mild discomfort that you experience during this time.

Warning Signs


Watch for these signs and symptoms and call the Neurosurgery Clinic, if needed:

  • Increased drainage from the incision sites.
  • Change in the amount of pain at the sites
  • Temperature greater than 101.5° F by mouth

What happens after the generator placement surgery?


Two weeks after your last surgery you will come in to the Neurosurgery Clinic for incision check/suture removal visit. Two to four weeks following the surgeries, the programming of the device will begin. This is done in the Neurology Movement Disorders Clinic. It may take three to six months to adjust the device for optimal symptom management.


What else is affected by deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery?


MRI imaging should not be done once DBS electrodes have been placed. Many times CT scans, X-rays or other studies are acceptable substitutes for MRI studies.


Who do I call with post-surgery questions or issues?

  • If it is an emergency, call 911.
  • If you have general questions about your surgery, call the Neurosurgery Clinic at (608) 263-7502.
  • If you have questions about your programming or medications for Parkinson's, essential tremor or dystonia, call the Movement Disorders Clinic at (608) 262-0550.
  • If you have questions during holidays and weekends, call the hospital paging operator at (608) 262-0486 or (800) 323-8942. Leave your name, phone number with area code and a physician will call you back. For signs of infection or increased pain, ask for the neurosurgeon on call. For problems with confusion, dyskinesia or other questions about medications, ask for the neurologist on call.