Complications from vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) procedures are common and can have important implications for morbidity and seizure control, yet predictors of complications are poorly understood. The objective of this study was to assess clinical factors associated with minor and major complications from VNS procedures among pediatric patients with drug-resistant epilepsy.
The authors performed an 11-year retrospective review of patients who underwent VNS procedures for drug-resistant epilepsy at age < 21 years. The primary outcome was complications (minor or major) following VNS surgery. Preoperative and surgery characteristics were compared between patients who developed versus those who did not develop complications. Multivariable Poisson regression was performed to determine the association between preoperative characteristics and infection.
Of 686 surgeries, 48 complications (7.0%) developed; there were 7 minor complications (1.0%) and 41 major complications (6.0%). Surgeries with minor complications were an average of 68 minutes longer than those without minor complications (p < 0.001). The incidence rate of infection was 1 per 100 person-years, with 3% of procedures complicated by infection. Poisson regression revealed that after adjusting for age at surgery, duration of surgery, and primarily motor seizure semiology, the incident rate of infection for revision surgeries preceded by ≥ 2 procedures was 19 times that of first-time revisions.
The overall minor complication rate was 1% and the overall major complication rate was 6% for VNS procedures. Longer surgery duration was associated with the development of minor complications but not major complications. Repeat incisions to the VNS pocket may be associated with higher incident rate of infection, highlighting a need for longer-lasting VNS pulse generator models.