Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurologic disorder characterized by a loss of nerve cells in the substantia nigra (a small area deep within the brain stem). While Parkinson's disease affects more than one million Americans, the underlying cause of this degenerative disease is unknown. Patients usually experience the first symptoms of Parkinson's disease between the ages of 50 and 60 years, but symptoms are increasingly being recognized at a younger age.

Although no cure currently exists for Parkinson's disease, the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center offers a surgical option to assist in controlling the symptoms and help improve quality of life.


Parkinson's disease can cause a variety of debilitating symptoms, including ambulatory difficulties, muscle slowness, stiffness and tremor. The primary objective of medical treatment is to improve the quality of life for patients. For most individuals with Parkinson's disease, symptoms initially can be managed with medications designed to stimulate the dopamine system or to mimic its controlling effect on other nerve cells. As the disease progresses, however, medications become less effective.

Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical option for patients whose symptoms cannot be controlled with medications alone. After magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans have identified the exact areas of the brain that are responsible for the symptoms, the DBS system is surgically implanted to deliver high-frequency electrical stimulation to the targeted area. The stimulation interferes with the abnormal electrical impulses that cause uncontrolled movements.

The DBS System

The DBS system consists of a neurostimulator, an extension and an electrode. Similar to a pacemaker, the battery-operated neurostimulator provides an electrical current and is usually implanted in the chest or abdomen. The extension is an insulated wire that connects the neurostimulator to an electrode that is implanted in the skull. The tip of the electrode is placed within the area of the brain that is producing the symptoms.

Benefits and Outcomes

Most DBS patients are able to reduce medication dosage, which can help alleviate the side effects of medications. The DBS system also can be adjusted according to symptom expression, and it can even be removed if a more promising treatment is developed.

Continuity of Care

In addition to a team of exceptional physicians, the Department of Neurosurgery has assembled a highly trained and dedicated healthcare professionals to assist with providing the highest quality care for Parkinson's disease patients. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants provide a crucial, continuous personal link between specialists and patients throughout the course of treatment and follow-up care. Their efforts ensure smooth communication and optimal treatment outcomes.

For an appointment, a second opinion or more information, please call 1-800-CEDARS-1 (1-800-233-2771) or e-mail us at