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Friday, May 31, 2019

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: Rechargeable or Not?

When I had my DBS surgery for Parkinson's disease in October 2012, I had a choice of either a regular Activa™PC generator (the thing in my chest that controls the leads in my brain) that would last from 3-5 years or I could choose the rechargeable Activa™ RC with a 9-year lifespan, but it would require me to charge it up on a daily/weekly basis. 
Rechargeable on left, regular on right

I knew lots of people who had the regular one and most were getting it replaced every 2-3 years. I only knew one person with the rechargeable and she said the charging equipment was bulky and didn't even come with a cute carrying case (She has a great sense of humor too.) 

Dr Norton, my neurosurgeon recommended the regular one. He said you will get the newest technology with each replacement. So, I took his advice.  

Well, it's May 2019 (6.5 years later) and I will soon be facing this decision again. If I were to have replacement surgery today, I'd be getting the same technology that was available back then. As of today, there's nothing new for the patient from Medtronic, except the 9-year rechargeable lifespan has been increased to 15-years. I am told, however, that a new charging system, a new patient programmer and even a new regular generator will be coming to market soon. How soon? Your guess is as good as mine.

Can I wait? Maybe. 

While I wait and check my current battery status (2.57v) on a daily basis, I keep weighing the pros and cons of my choices.

The advantage of a regular unit like mine is you just forget about it for about 3 years and then you get a new one. Mine is over 6.5 years old, so mine lasted way longer than the average. There's no guarantee the next one will last that long.

The disadvantage, for someone as thin as I am, is that it really sticks out. 

This is my DBS IPG 

I am not a very vain person and just the fact that it shows doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that one top corner. 

IPG is sticking out 
Do you see how the skin is really tight in that one area? I worry that it may break through my skin one day. 

Close up of that corner

I must be very careful when buying shirts, there can't be any seams in that spot. The same thing goes for bras, the straps can't rub across that area. I have to carry my purse on my left shoulder or across my body from left to right. I have to be careful when I am in the right passenger side of autos because the seat belt goes right across that spot. 

If I want to give someone a hug, I have to watch out for glasses or cell phones in shirt pockets, purses hanging on their shoulders, sometimes even bulky jewelry can cause me pain. I even have to be careful about the position I sleep in. Sometimes I feel some discomfort in that spot when I am stretching my arms. I have to always be aware of it. 

I have held both choices in my hands, I have taken comparison photos. The rechargeable is definitely smaller and more importantly for me, thinner.

It's definitely thinner

And of course, now I know more people who now have the rechargeable unit. Some charge it daily, some twice a week, some less than that. Most agree the charging apparatus is bulky, especially if you travel often by air, which I don't. Most charge theirs when they are laid back in a recliner watching TV. It apparently just sits on top of the unit in their chest. This could be a potential problem for me because I prefer to sit up straight. I can't sit in a recliner, I find them very uncomfortable. 

The other advantage of the rechargeable is the now 15-year lifespan. This means less replacement surgeries and any time a Parky can avoid surgery, it's always a good thing.

To further complicate things, I could also replace my Medtronic device with one from Boston Scientific or Abbott, but I have ruled this choice out. I have a good relationship with Medtronic and am happy with the way my device works. Switching might cause problems. 

I still have some time to decide, but I am leaning towards the thinner rechargeable. Maybe one of the new devices will be ready soon. 

Help me decide, what do you think?


  1. Hi,
    I agree with you on the thinner one because of it's size and lasting 15 years. By the time you will need another one the newer edition should have all the bugs and problems worked out. Karen

  2. My husband just got his second DBS surgery a month ago so two leads going into his Medtronic. He has the rechargeable the surgeon said see you in about 13 years! I say go rechargeable

  3. I have had both. The non rechargeable battery lasted less than 5 years. I prefer the rechargeable. It doesn’t have to be replaced until 2029.

  4. I had the non rechargeable one and it lasted less than a year and now have the rechargeable one and it seems great. I just had a second DBS put in with the same battery but it was implanted deeper so I’m having a difficult time getting full bars on the charger so it takes longer to charge than the other side.

  5. I like the set and forget of the non-rechargeable.

  6. Well I'm new to all this but I went with Medtronic rechargeable. I'm very happy worth my decision. Once a week I recharge. It takes about 1 hour. I have a coffee and iPad. It's great.

  7. I chose the rechargeable battery. Glad I did. I go a week on a 1 hour and 20 minutes charge. And less surgery.