What is the cost of deep brain stimulation for Australians with Parkinson’s disease?

What is the cost of deep brain stimulation for Australians with Parkinson’s disease?

What Is Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep brain stimulation is a major invasive surgical procedure that aims at reducing the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Although not a cure for the condition deep brain stimulation can assist in abating the well-known symptoms of trembling, shaking, rigidity and muscle stiffness associated with Parkinson’s disease. By doing so the operation can also help lower the medication dose that patients of Parkinson’s disease need otherwise to regulate symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease is caused when the brain’s nerve cells that produce dopamine start deteriorating. Dopamine is a chemical that regulates controlled movement but when its levels are exhausted, spastic movements set in, which are initially controlled by medication. In Australia, 80,000 people have been diagnosed with the condition which means that this part of the population is afflicted with a degenerative disease for which neither cause nor cure has been established.
For patients whose conditions worsens, or when medication fails to be effective, major surgery as deep brain stimulation is recommended.

The operation involves drilling a hole in the skull with the aim of strategically placing electrodes into the brain. With the help of electrical signals, patients are better able to control their movements. Electrodes are connected with wires from the skull to a battery implanted in the chest. With the help of a remote control, the frequency of impulses can be adjusted as the disease progresses.

Cost Of Deep Brain Stimulation

The cost of the operation is partially covered by Medicare and private health insurers but patients still have to pay many out of pocket expenses. Because the surgery is highly specialised and the operation fairly long, medical charges will pile up to hefty amounts. Surgeons will charge their fee while there will also be separate fee charges for anaesthetists, assistants and any other medical staff on hand.

Deep Brain Stimulation Cost For Private Patients In Australia

For private patients there will also be hospital charges as these patients will need to stay in the facility for some time after the operation. Based on the private health insurer and the type of rebate provided, deep brain stimulation out of pocket costs can range anywhere between $4000 to $50,000
Deep brain stimulation is devised to improve the quality of life for patients in the long term. As such this huge benefit will need to be set against the immense out of pocket expenses incurred during the operation.

Because the operation is invasive brain surgery, patients also need to be aware that the procedure is not without risks. After effects of the surgery may sometimes include stroke, brain haemorrhage or paralysis. However, deep brain stimulation has seen a very high success rate in the past. Typically a third of the patients can stop taking their medication very soon after the operation, and those that still need to take some can find comfort in reducing their dosage significantly.

There is a chance for some patients that deep brain stimulation does not work. For such cases, it is thought that the procedure may not be successful due to the type of the condition or the severity of the disease.


1) Deep Brain Stimulation: http://www.deepbrainstimulation.com.au/deep-brain-stimulation.html

2) Andrew Brierley was wide awake and watching his own deep-brain surgery on a screen: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/andrew-brierley-was-wide-awake-and-watching-his-own-deep-brain-surgery-on-a-screen/story-fndo2izk-1226504574749

3) Good Health: http://www.brizbrain.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/good-health.pdf

4) Deep Brain Stimulation – $21 000 out of pocket in Qld, $0 in Victoria: http://ourhealth.org.au/have-a-say/have-your-say-now/cost-health-care/deep-brain-stimulation-21-000-out-pocket-qld-0#.UzigKKKRmSo

5) Funding the fight: http://www.riverinaleader.com.au/story/195216/funding-the-fight/