Global Variability in Deep Brain Stimulation Practices for Parkinson’s Disease

Congratulations to Dr. Okun on the publication of “Global Variability in Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson’s Disease,” which was published in the March edition of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.



Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has become a standard treatment option for select patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). The selection process and surgical procedures employed have, to date, not been standardized.


A comprehensive 58-question web-based survey was developed with a focus on DBS referral practices and peri-operative management. The survey was distributed to the Parkinson’s Foundation Centers of Excellence, members of the International Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Society, and the Parkinson Study Group (Functional Neurosurgery Working Group) between December 2015 and May 2016.


There were 207 individual respondents (20% response rate) drawn from 59 countries and 6 continents, of whom 64% received formal training in DBS. Thirteen percent of centers reported that DBS could proceed despite a confidence level of < 50% for PD diagnosis. A case-based approach to DBS candidacy was applied in 51.3% of centers without a cut-off for levodopa-responsiveness. Surprisingly, 33% of centers regularly used imaging for diagnostic confirmation of idiopathic PD. Thirty-one percent of centers reported that neuropsychological evaluation did not affect DBS target selection. Approximately half of the respondents reported determination of DBS candidacy based on a multidisciplinary committee evaluation and 1/3rd reported that a committee was used for target selection. Eight percent of respondents felt that psychosocial factors should not impact DBS candidacy nor site selection. Involvement of allied health professionals in the preoperative process was sparse. There was high variability in preoperative education about DBS outcome expectations. Approximately half of the respondents did not utilize a “default brain target,” though STN was used more commonly than GPi. Specific DBS procedure techniques applied, as well as follow-up timelines, were highly variable.


Results revealed high variability on the best approaches for DBS candidate selection, brain target selection, procedure type, and postoperative practices. Cognitive and mood assessments were underutilized. There was low reliance on multidisciplinary teams or psychosocial factors to impact the decision-making process. There were small but significant differences in practice across global regions, especially regarding multidisciplinary teams. The wide variability of responses across multiple facets of DBS care highlights the need for prospective studies to inform evidence-based guidelines.