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Does DBS affect speech?

Tuesday May 22, 2012

DBS treats movement symptoms of Parkinson’s specifically tremor, dystonia motor offs and dyskinesia. DBS does not typically improve speech and in some cases can be associated with worsening speech. The following information may help you understand the complex association between speech changes with Parkinson’s and DBS:

  • DBS typically helps motor symptoms that also respond to medicine. Although difficult to predict, DBS may improve speech if  levodopa also significantly improves speech. However, in most cases, speech is not helped by medicines suggesting DBS will also not help.
  • If speech is still responsive to levodopa, under-medication can also worsen speech. Medicines are often reduced after surgery.
  • Subthalamic (STN) DBS surgery can affect ‘verbal fluency’. This can be noticed as a difficulty ‘finding or getting the right word out’.
  • DBS programming can worsen speech as a noted side effect to over-stimulation. This is probably the most common cause of significant speech change after surgery.
  • Speech can worsen as Parkinson’s progresses over time even with DBS. This is usually a gradual decline.
  • Immediate change in speech after surgery can occur as a result of brain bleeding or other problem during surgery. This can improve over time.
  • A speech therapist can help you understand the potential impact of DBS on speech and help improve communication at any stage of your disease.

This information serves as a guide only. Only your healthcare provider can answer the questions about how DBS will impact speech for you.

Monique L. Giroux, MDMonique L. Giroux, MD
Medical Director, Northwest Parkinson's Foundation

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