Deep brain stimulation hardware–related infections: 10-year experience at a single institution

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Deep brain stimulation is an effective surgical treatment for managing some neurological and psychiatric disorders. Infection related to the deep brain stimulator (DBS) hardware causes significant morbidity: hardware explantation may be required; initial disease symptoms such as tremor, rigidity, and bradykinesia may recur; and the medication requirements for adequate disease management may increase. These morbidities are of particular concern given that published DBS-related infection rates have been as high as 23%. To date, however, the key risk factors for and the potential preventive measures against these infections remain largely uncharacterized. In this study, the authors endeavored to identify possible risk factors for DBS-related infection and analyze the efficacy of prophylactic intrawound vancomycin powder (VP).


The authors performed a retrospective cohort study of patients who had undergone primary DBS implantation at a single institution in the period from December 2005 through September 2015 to identify possible risk factors for surgical site infection (SSI) and to assess the impact of perioperative (before, during, and after surgery) prophylactic antibiotics on the SSI rate. They also evaluated the effect of a change in the National Healthcare Safety Network’s definition of SSI on the number of infections detected. Statistical analyses were performed using the 2-sample t-test, the Wilcoxon rank-sum test, the chi-square test, Fisher’s exact test, or logistic regression, as appropriate for the variables examined.


Four hundred sixty-four electrodes were placed in 242 adults during 245 primary procedures over approximately 10.5 years; most patients underwent bilateral electrode implantation. Among the 245 procedures, 9 SSIs (3.7%) occurred within 90 days and 16 (6.5%) occurred within 1 year of DBS placement. Gram-positive bacteria were the most common etiological agents. Most patient- and procedure-related characteristics did not differ between those who had acquired an SSI and those who had not. The rate of SSIs among patients who had received intrawound VP was only 3.3% compared with 9.7% among those who had not received topical VP (OR 0.32, 95% CI 0.10–1.02, p = 0.04). After controlling for patient sex, the association between VP and decreased SSI risk did not reach the predetermined level of significance (adjusted OR 0.32, 95% CI 0.10–1.03, p = 0.06). The SSI rates were similar after staged and unstaged implantations.


While most patient-related and procedure-related factors assessed in this study were not associated with the risk for an SSI, the data did suggest that intrawound VP may help to reduce the SSI risk after DBS implantation. Furthermore, given the implications of SSI after DBS surgery and the frequency of infections occurring more than 90 days after implantation, continued follow-up for at least 1 year after such a procedure is prudent to establish the true burden of these infections and to properly treat them when they do occur.

ABBREVIATIONS ASA = American Society of Anesthesiologists; BMI = body mass index; DBS = deep brain stimulator; GPI = globus pallidus internus; IPG = implantable pulse generator; IV = intravenous; MSSA = methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus; NHSN = National Healthcare Safety Network; OCD = obsessive-compulsive disorder; SSI = surgical site infection; STN = subthalamic nucleus; VC = ventral capsule; VIM = ventralis intermedius; VP = vancomycin powder; VS = ventral striatum.

Article Information

Correspondence Jeremy D. W. Greenlee: University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online March 9, 2018; DOI: 10.3171/2017.9.JNS1780.

Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.






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