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Zhengyu Lin, Chencheng Zhang, Yingying Zhang, Lulin Dai, Valerie Voon, Dianyou Li, and Bomin Sun

OBJECTIVE

The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has considerably affected the delivery of postoperative care to patients who have undergone deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery. DBS teleprogramming technology was developed and deployed in China before the COVID-19 outbreak. In this report, the authors share their experiences with telemedical DBS treatment of patients with psychiatric disorders during the COVID-19 outbreak.

METHODS

Four patients (2 with obsessive-compulsive disorder, 1 with major depressive disorder, and 1 with anorexia nervosa) underwent DBS surgery at Ruijin Hospital and received continuous postoperative DBS telemedicine case management from January 2020 to July 2020. DBS teleprogramming, individualized psychological support, and medical consultations were provided via the authors’ DBS telemedicine platform, which also incorporated a synchronous real-time video communication system.

RESULTS

Forty-five DBS telemedicine sessions were conducted; there was no unexpected loss of network connection during the sessions. Of these, 28 sessions involved DBS teleprogramming. Adjustments were made to the stimulation voltage, frequency, pulse width, and contact site in 21, 12, 9, and 9 sessions, respectively. Psychological support and troubleshooting were provided during the remaining telemedicine sessions. Modest to substantial clinical improvements after DBS surgery were observed in some but not all patients, whereas stimulation-related side effects were reported by 2 patients and included reversible sleep and mood problems, headache, and a sensation of heat.

CONCLUSIONS

DBS telemedicine seems to offer a feasible, safe, and efficient strategy for maintaining the delivery of medical care to psychiatric patients during the COVID-19 outbreak. The authors propose that implementation of a comprehensive DBS telemedicine system, which combines DBS teleprogramming with psychological counseling, medical consultations, and medication prescriptions and delivery, could be an efficient and effective approach to manage the mental health and quality of life of patients with psychiatric disorders during future local or global public health crises.