Chronic subthalamic high-frequency deep brain stimulation in Parkinson's disease – a histopathological study


Mette S. Nielsen, Department of Neurobiology, Institute of Anatomy, University of Aarhus, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark (tel.: + 45 8942 3027; fax: + 45 8942 3060; e-mail:


This study describes the pathological findings in the brain of a patient with Parkinson's disease (PD) treated with bilateral subthalamic high-frequency deep brain stimulation (STN DBS) for 29 months prior to death. After routine neuropathological examination, tissue blocks containing the electrode tracts, the subthalamic nucleus (STN), the substantia nigra and the pre-frontal cortex were paraffin embedded and cut into 5-μm-thick serial sections and stained with several conventional staining methods and immunohistochemistry. Bilateral nigral depigmentation, cell loss and Lewy body formation confirmed the diagnosis of PD. Microscopic evaluation furthermore confirmed the location of the electrodes in the STN. The electrode tracts were surrounded by a 150-μm-wide glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-positive capsule consisting of a thin collagen layer lining the lumen of the tract, whilst an area with few cells and axons constituted the capsule wall towards the surrounding normal brain tissue. The brain tissue appeared normal outside the capsule boundaries with no difference in areas of stimulation compared with areas of no stimulation. Our results correspond with previous studies performed after fewer months of STN DBS and indicate mild histopathological changes in the vicinity of the electrode tract, appearing to result from the electrode placement and not from the electrical stimulation.