“Finding a DBS system to fit the needs of individual patients is crucial”


sponsored by Boston Scientific

Author: Boston ScientificPublished: 26 August 2021

Parkinson's LifePrep: Parkinson's LifeCook: Parkinson's LifeServes:

A headshot of Professor Veerle Visser‐Vandewalle.

Germany-based neurosurgeon Professor Veerle Visser‐Vandewalle shares her experience of the latest DBS technology from Boston Scientific, how it’s helping her to personalise treatment for people with Parkinson’s – and why she believes in supporting patients “as a whole”

Professor Veerle Visser‐Vandewalle has focused on Deep Brain Stimulation as a Parkinson’s disease treatment for the last 24 years. As head of stereotactic and functional neurosurgery at the University Hospital in Cologne, Germany, she is a firm believer in the technology’s potential to improve the quality of life for many with the condition, by treating both motor and non-motor symptoms.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) works by sending electronic signals through thin wires to specific parts of the brain that control movement. “We’ve seen that this has a positive effect on, for example, sleep disturbances and autonomic dysfunction in Parkinson’s patients,” she explains.

While DBS has been available as a treatment for decades, Professor Visser‐Vandewalle believes that the advent of new technology can make it even more effective and easy to use. But, as every person with Parkinson’s disease is different, finding a system that can be adapted to fit the needs of individual patients is crucial.

A patient and clinician smile in doctor's office.

New emerging technologies could help to tailor treatment for people with Parkinson’s.

“It’s important we not only focus on the movement disorder itself, but we also look to the patients as a whole,” she says, pointing out that Parkinson’s can come with a range of complex challenges, including symptoms like depression and anxiety.

To address some of these challenges she has decided to use the Vercise Genus™ system from Boston Scientific, which allows her to control stimulation precisely whilst minimising side effects.

“Patients actually can forget that they are using DBS,” she says of the unit’s size, “and they are not confronted with a big pulse generator that continuously reminds them that they are using the treatment.” In fact, she adds, the extension cable is so thin that it can barely be seen in the neck of the patient.

Its design also means that many people might find it more comfortable: “Only one cable is needed for a patient implanted with two electrodes,” she explains, “so it may reduce the pulling sensation that some people may feel, due to the formation of scar tissue around cables.”

A comfortable advantage

The device also gives people the choice of a rechargeable or battery. Professor Visser‐Vandewalle explains that some don’t mind recharging their stimulator once a week if it means their battery will last 25 years – while others may decide they want to forget about the battery for a few years until it needs replacing.

Another benefit is that users of the system can, under certain conditions, undergo an MRI scan with the device attached, she says.

The device’s Bluetooth technology, which allows it to be programmed from three metres away, has been a useful feature recently – allowing for social distancing between healthcare professionals and people with Parkinson’s during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also means that a medical team can adjust the stimulation when a patient is walking and understand the direct effect this has on their gait.

Clinicians can also use a compatible visualisation software called Guide-XT, which shows patient-specific anatomy with a 3D-visualisation, to plan the programming of the DBS device and understand stimulation field models within the brain.

A visualisation software showing patient-specific anatomy.

Visualisation software Guide-XT uses 3D-imaging to show patient-specific anatomy.

All this helps to ensure that treatment can be tailored to specific patients’ symptoms. This adaptable approach is the perfect fit for Professor Visser‐Vandewalle’s priorities as a neurosurgeon: “My goal is to offer the patient an individualised treatment that reduces symptoms without side effects or any other burden.”

New technologies to treat Parkinson’s are emerging and improving. But while DBS has long been available to people who do not respond to certain medications, Professor Visser‐Vandewalle says that it is still relatively little-known, even among those with the condition.

“It is still a challenge to reach all patients to inform them that this treatment exists,” she says. “There are many long-term studies supporting that DBS has positively impacted patients’ quality of life. But 1% of people over the age of 65 will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and we’re only treating about 70 cases each year – so where are all the others?”

The law restricts these devices to sale by or on the order of a physician. Indications, contraindications, warnings and instructions for use can be found in the product labelling supplied with each device. Products shown for INFORMATION purposes only and may not be approved or for sale in certain countries. This material is not intended for use in France.

Need to know

Professor Veerle Visser‐Vandewalle is head of the department of stereotactic and functional neurosurgery at the University Hospital Cologne, Germany and has been a DBS neurosurgeon for 24 years. Dedicated to her patients, she says she loves being able to “change patients’ quality of life”.

This article is sponsored by Boston Scientific. The information in this article is given for information purposes only and does not represent an endorsement by the European Parkinson’s Disease Association of any particular treatments, products or companies. This article is not a substitute for advice from your doctor, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. Parkinson’s Life makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness or accuracy of information provided. 

Go Back

Share this story


Related articles

Dr Lennart Stieglitz

sponsored article


5 things you might not know about DBS

Diving deeper into deep brain stimulation with Dr Lennart Stieglitz

An older couple consult a clinician on a tablet.

Special reports

“The digital revolution has definitely started”

What does the future of Parkinson’s disease care look like?



Voice-assisted technology: a “virtual ally” in your home?

Voice assistants could improve speech for people with Parkinson’s disease