Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust suspended following an independent review

Two doctors in surgery

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Surgery is a neurosurgical procedure used to treat movement disorders associated with Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and other neurological conditions. The surgery involves implanting electrodes within the brain, which delivers electrical impulses to alter activity. Patients can experience mild to severe side effects if the electrodes are not placed in the correct place, including difficulties with balance and speech.

DBS surgery was previously performed Queen Elizabeth Hospital, part of UHB NHS Trust. In 2019, a serious clinical incident was reported, concerning a patient who underwent DBS surgery, was found to have misplaced electrodes. This clinical incident prompted an initial review of patients who had DBS surgery at UHB from 2017 to 2019. The initial review raised further concerns regarding DBS surgery. As a result, the review was extended to investigate the care and treatment of all patients who underwent DBS surgery at UHB.

An independent review was therefore commissioned and was conducted by a Consultant Neurologist and Neurosurgeon from King’s College Hospital. The review was finalised in November 2021.

The report uncovered that many patients experienced poor clinical results, with most patients receiving little or no benefit of the treatment post operatively. It concluded that in many of the patients the electrodes were not placed in the correct area of the brain, resulting in a poor clinical outcome or leaving them with mild to severe side effects. The investigation reviewed 22 cases involving 21 patients and found that in only three, the electrodes were placed in a good position, five were usable and 13 were ineffective.

The report also concluded that there were “unacceptable delays” in responding to patients’ complaints following treatment. In addition to the failure by the DBS team to investigate and review the complications patients were experiencing post operatively.

Following the initial review in October 2019 and independent review UHB have suspended DBS surgery indefinitely.

The Trust has apologised stating they are “deeply sorry” that they did not deliver high quality healthcare for the patients undergoing deep brain stimulation surgery for their movement disorder.

Article written by Lizzie Bellamy