Deep Brain Stimulation for Kids With Epilepsy

If your child has epilepsy, you may have heard about deep brain stimulation (DBS).

DBS may reduce how often a person has seizures.

The Epilepsy Surgery Program at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh offers this seizure treatment. We can tell you whether DBS may be a good option for your child.

Call 412-692-6928 or email with questions about DBS for kids with epilepsy.

How Does the DBS Device Work?

DBS uses electrical impulses to treat seizures and impact epilepsy networks.

A surgeon puts thin wires (electrodes) in a deep area of the brain called the thalamus. They also implant a device called a neurostimulator inside the chest wall.

The neurostimulator sends signals to the wires. It tells the wires to send mild electrical pulses to the deep parts of the brain.

These signals can disrupt the electrical bursts in the brain to help prevent seizures.

The DBS device uses batteries. Some devices are rechargeable.

Your child's epilepsy team programs the device in the clinic with a handheld wireless unit. It tells the system to deliver small electrical currents on a precise cycle.

The clinic doctors will adjust these settings over time based on how your child responds to the implant.

Is DBS Right for My Child?

Researchers have studied DBS for many years and the FDA approves it to treat epilepsy.

DBS may be an option if anti-seizure medicine doesn't control your child's seizures.

Our epilepsy surgery team can find out if DBS is right for your child.

How Helpful Is DBS?

DBS does not cure epilepsy.

But it can lower the number of seizures your child has. It may also reduce how severe they are.

Many people who get a DBS implant see their seizures get better over time.

Most people will stay on their anti-seizure drugs. But, they may be able to lower their dose or drop some medicines if seizures improve.

What to Expect with DBS Surgery

DBS surgery takes 4 to 6 hours.

Your child will receive general anesthesia, so they'll be asleep during the surgery.

During DBS surgery, the surgeon:

  • Drills small holes in the skull.
  • Uses the ROSA© surgical robot to implant the thin wires in the brain. This ensures they're put in as safely and precisely as possible.
  • Then inserts the small DBS device under the skin below the collarbone.

Most kids can go home the day after surgery. Doctors at the clinic will program the device about 1 month after surgery.

Contact the Epilepsy Surgery Program at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

To make a referral, schedule an appointment, or request an evaluation for a child or teen, contact us at 412-692-6928 or email