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Changing of the guard: reducing infection when replacing neural pacemakers

Joshua Pepper, Lara Meliak, Harith Akram, Jonathan Hyam, Catherine Milabo, Joseph Candelario, Thomas Foltynie, Patricia Limousin, Carmel Curtis, Marwan Hariz, and Ludvic Zrinzo


Infection of deep brain stimulation (DBS) hardware has a significant impact on patient morbidity. Previous experience suggests that infection rates appear to be higher after implantable pulse generator (IPG) replacement surgery than after the de novo DBS procedure. In this study the authors examine the effect of a change in practice during DBS IPG replacements at their institution.


Starting in January 2012, patient screening for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and, and where necessary, eradication was performed prior to elective DBS IPG change. Moreover, topical vancomycin was placed in the IPG pocket during surgery. The authors then prospectively examined the infection rate in patients undergoing DBS IPG replacement at their center over a 3-year period with at least 9 months of follow-up.


The total incidence of infection in this prospective consecutive series of 101 IPG replacement procedures was 0%, with a mean follow-up duration of 24 ± 11 months. This was significantly lower than the authors' previously published historical control group, prior to implementing the change in practice, where the infection rate for IPG replacement was 8.5% (8/94 procedures; p = 0.003).


This study suggests that a change in clinical practice can significantly lower infection rates in patients undergoing DBS IPG replacement. These simple measures can minimize unnecessary surgery, loss of benefit from chronic stimulation, and costly hardware replacement, further improving the cost efficacy of DBS therapies.