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Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is a serious neuropsychiatric disorder. Treatment often includes a combination of high dose antidepressants — such as fluvoxamine, fluoxetine, clomipramine — and specific type of psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

However, many people with OCD experience only partial relief of their symptoms with this treatment.

Some people show no improvement in their symptoms and struggle to perform day-to-day activities. This leads to severe problems with their relationships, work, and well-being.

What is deep brain stimulation (DBS)?

DBS is an advanced clinical treatment for people with severe OCD who don't respond to traditional treatment options.

Doctors most often use DBS to treat movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease and dystonia. But the FDA approved DBS to treat OCD under a humanitarian device exemption.

When do you use DBS?

To receive this treatment, you need to meet the requirements below.

DBS inclusion criteria

You must be 18 years or older and have:

  • OCD for at least five years
  • Severe OCD based on rating scales.
  • Failed at least three complete selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) trials.
  • Finished or tried to finish cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).

Exclusion criteria for DBS

You won't be able to receive DBS treatment if you're pregnant, OCD-primary hoarding type.

  • OCD — primary hoarding type
  • Personality disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Had prior surgery to destroy the region of the brain that DBS will target
  • Had other major nervous system diseases, including dementia

How do doctors perform DBS?

DBS is a surgical technique performed by a specially trained neurosurgeon.

The doctor implants a thin wire (electrode) in the part of the brain causing your symptoms.

The wire connects to a pulse generator implanted under the skin below the collarbone. It carries mild electrical pulses to the brain to help control abnormal behaviors.

DBS is both adjustable and reversible.

Does DBS have side effects?

DBS is very safe. The risk of a serious complication is about 1 percent.

We make every effort to reduce risks and watch you carefully after your DBS surgery.

How do I prepare for DBS?

Your current psychiatrist will need to refer you for an assessment by one of our OCD specialists.

We will gather your health records focusing on past treatments, including drugs and psychotherapy. We also will assess you for any health or other issues that might have an impact on your response to DBS.

Contact the Center for Interventional Psychiatry at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital

For more information or to schedule an appointment with the Center for Interventional Psychiatry, please call 412-246-5063.