Note to reader: Keep in mind, this article was written in 2016. DBS batteries are changing and last longer than they did when the article was written just a few years ago!

Decision-making isn’t easy, especially when your health is at stake. After you decide to have Deep Brain Stimulation, you select whether to go for unilateral or bilateral surgery, followed by a choice of battery type. Your options are a rechargeable or a non-rechargeable battery.

With a non-rechargeable battery, you live free from tremor until your battery runs out. You’ll have surgery to replace the battery approximately every 3-5 years, but some people need to replace it in much less time. Like Cinderella in her gown and glass slippers, you must be mindful that that your non-rechargeable battery-life has a timeframe for replacement. With the same authority as Fairy Godmother, your neurostimulator settings determine how quickly they deplete your battery.

A rechargeable battery will last for 9 years, but you must charge it pretty much daily.

There is no right answer. A case can be made for either decision. Ultimately, you must make the choice yourself.

Cost Difference Between Rechargeable and Non-rechargeable Batteries

As a matter of interest, a rechargeable battery is a more expensive battery whereas a non-rechargeable battery is less expensive. The price difference varies greatly depending on the hospital. This is based on national or regional hospital contracts, hospital volume, bulk orders, etc. Also, this is not necessarily the price patients will see on their bill as hospitals and insurers tend to have their mark up as well. A rechargeable dual channel costs around three times more than a single channel non-rechargeable, and a primary cell non-rechargeable dual channel is somewhere in the middle of those two figures.

Bay Area Choices

In the Bay Area, Kaiser Permanente gives you a choice between rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries. My movement disorder specialist Dr. Rima Ash said, “People often don’t choose rechargeable due to the ordeal of charging, athough, for most, it is a simple activity that takes about 20-30 min if done daily. Medtronic has now come out with better ways to charge without having to use the recharging harness.”

Dr. Helen Bronte-Stewart. MD, MSE, FANN, FANA, Director of the Stanford Comprehensive Movement Disorders Center said, “My patients with the rechargeable are doing well with it and charge it every night/day. The majority of them have dystonia, which is where we use it more frequently as they require IPG replacements more often.”

If you research online, you will read that UCSF doesn’t recommend rechargeable unless you are using up your existing system in less than 2 years from implantation. “This is not a hard and fast rule at UCSF,” said Monica Volz, a nurse practitioner at UCSF Movement Disorders and Neuromodulation Center. “We have some patients who have some signs of dementia or other mental conditions, where even if they were going through their battery in less than two years, UCSF would recommend non-rechargeable replacements. It really just depends. The pros and cons are discussed with every patient before replacement.”

Implant Depth

Sometimes implanters will put a non-rechargeable a little deeper because of the patient’s anatomy, but then if a patient would switch to a rechargeable it may be too deep to obtain excellent coupling. This would be a complication that would require a pocket revision and swallowing of the pocket. This would usually be done at the time of replacement but something to consider for some patients.

Difference in Ease of Using

  • There is a “sweet spot” that some users have difficulty locating in order for the charge to be successful.
  • Some patients choose non-rechargeable because they don’t want to deal with charging.
  • You may be attracted to a non-rechargeable battery because your family life and lifestyle put such stress on you that you can’t tolerate another daily task.
  • If you’re traveling abroad you must carry an adaptor with you for recharging. “Be sure to recharge conservatively early on when traveling,” suggests physician-assistant Ivan Bernstein at Kaiser-Permanente Redwood City.

Difference in Number of Hospital Visits

Some doctors prefer rechargeable because it reduces the number of surgeries you will have with the shorter life non-rechargeable battery.

Technology Developments

A side benefit of the non-rechargeable battery is that it assures you that every 3–5 years you will get a comprehensive re-evaluation and technology match reassessment. Who knows what kind of equipment they’ll come up with tomorrow? Movement Disorder Specialist Rima Ash noted that “waiting may allow a for better technology with the next battery.”

What my doctors and medical professionals suggested

In my case, most of the doctors and professionals I asked, suggested a rechargeable battery to reduce surgeries, because my battery had to be replaced at 2.9 years, which is shorter than the average time of 3 to 5 years. Dr. Ash said, “We [at Kaiser Permanente] typically suggest rechargeable for those who drain their battery under 2-3 years.”

My neurosurgeon cautioned, “Whenever there’s hesitation about rechargeable, I think it should be avoided,” reminding me that the rechargeable model needs daily attention.

What my friends suggested

Most of my friends and family voted on the non-rechargeable battery. My brother commiserated, “Another task? I can barely remember to brush my teeth!” My sister concurred, “Our family doesn’t like to sit for daily recharges. Non-rechargeable sounds hassle free and uncomplicated.”

A friend with PD said, “I would go for the non-rechargeable just for the travel issues – on our African safari, for example, power was not consistent. I’d probably go for replacement in 3 years and see what advances they make in that time period.”

Another friend thought the non-rechargeable wins the cost-benefit calculation. He said, “Daily charging is an ordeal and could likely prove overbearing.  Moreover, the surgery for a charge-free battery has an extraordinarily high success/no complications rate.” One of my friends preferred the chargeable stimulator because “you’ll have 3 less surgeries less with a rechargeable battery.”

What did I choose?

As a friend pointed out, “Get all the opinions and then go with your gut. You alone know what is best for you!” On that advice, I chose the non-rechargeable for some of the reasons above. The quest for freedom swayed my decision.

I returned to work a week after the surgery. The surgery isn’t bad, but it is not easy. There are plenty of reasons—such as the irritation of the skin around the stitches, the care to protect the wound area, the time off work, and the short life of the battery that may steer me towards the rechargeable battery next time, since I will be revisiting this decision again in 2.9 years.

About Parkinson’s Women Support: The mission of Parkinson’s Women Support is to offer moral support, encouragement and camaraderie for women who are Parkinson’s disease patients. Check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/parkinsonswomen

22 thoughts on “Recharge or Non-recharge Battery for DBS?

  1. I had DBS implanted in 1999. Unfortunately rechargeable batteries were not available then. I have had 5 battery changes, at irregular intervals. The shortest of these was1 year. The cost has risen dramatically. The last procedure was $150K of which I paid $3K.
    I’d go for rechargeable batteries in a flash if I had the choice today.

  2. I had my original battery replaced after on,y 8 months with a rechargeable battery. Recharging is a daily chore. I cannot do anything else while recharging as the antenna moves even a tiny amount, the alarm goes and you have to find the right spot once again. It takes up my free time after returning home from work, and 8 would love to hav3 the non rechargeable battery back, but that is apparently not done here. My next thought is medical tourism to have it done, but at what cost? If you are deciding which way to go (if you are given a choice) talk to many people learn a lot about the pros and cons. It’s nit a walk in the park.

  3. I have a relatively small (compared to other batteries) rechargeable battery made by Boston Scientifics. It should be available in mid-2018 and has an estimated battery life of over 15 years. I recharge it every 2-3 weeks for 30-180 minutes using an adhesive (there is also a holster) so I can do other things while recharging. I travel abroad frequently and I’ve never found recharging to be a problem.

  4. Hello Anne can you please tell me was the battery made by Boston Scientifics used in a Medtronic device? How much did it cost? I am in South Africa and wandering about the cost here.

    • Estelle, As I mentioned in the blog, the price difference varies greatly depending on the hospital where you will have the surgery. This is based on national or regional hospital contracts, hospital volume, bulk orders, etc. Also, this is not necessarily the price patients will see on their bill as hospitals and insurers tend to have their mark up as well. A rechargeable dual channel costs around three times more than a single channel non-rechargeable, and a primary cell non-rechargeable dual channel is somewhere in the middle of those two figures. For a specific estimate inquire with your hospital administrators. As for whether certain brands can be used with each other, I’d refer you to your local neurosurgeon. He/she will know about compatibility and which brands they use.

  5. I got a rechargeable battery put in on Friday. I got 26 months out of my first battery and then 22 months out of my next. Each replacemeny the batteries last a little less time so a rechargeable was my only good option. I’ll sacrifice an hour a day to not have to go in for surgery so frequently lol. Though, I do have Dystonia which means my settings are very advanced and more draining on the battery – so most people aren’t like me, luckily. My doc said that the battery he was putting in was rated for 15 years… I don’t know if I’ll get that out of it but even 10 years would be amazing.

  6. Nope, I’d take the non rechargeable any day. A day off work for the surgery would be easier than working all day, then coming home at 6 or 7, recharging for 1 1/2 hours with little time for anything else. My battery pack is under the muscle I think, so a bit deeper than some. I’ve even written to Medtronic with my comments and met with the rep here, but still say recharging daily is just not satisfactory. The hospital here has a contraywith Medtronic, so no other options. For anyone who likes to be outside on holidays or weekends where there is no electricity, you could be in a bind if the charger doesn’t last. It it just a daily reminder of your medical condition, and I’d prefer to just forget it sometimes to feel somewhat “normal.”
    Anyway, sorry for the negativity but give it some thought before you decide if you are given an option.

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  9. Hi Anne –

    My husband has the rechargeable now – he had 4 replacements since 2013 due to his high settings, so his surgeon recommended the rechargeable because of the risk of infection these days in hospitals – my question is how to use the adhesive tapes that came with the holster – the holster gets loose and the charger “slips” so he loses the connection – any advice or video links as to how it’s done – I will say the reps make it sound as though you won’t have to “charge” very often, but as I’m reading here – it’s daily – I think they are misrepresenting the lasting “charge power” of the rechargeable battery a bit to patients.

    • I had no luck at all with the holster. Does he have the Medtronic brand? I find if I even cough, the connection is lost, and yes, for me it’s recharging every day. If my neurosurgeon would do another non rechargeable I would have it in a heartbeat even though mine needed replacement about once a year.

  10. Pingback: [Webinar Recording] Davis Phinney Foundation Presents a Virtual DBS Forum | Davis Phinney Foundation

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