Spectrum of clinical and histopathologic responses to intracranial electrodes: from multifocal aseptic meningitis to multifocal hypersensitivity-type meningovasculitis

Epilepsia. 2001 Jul;42(7):895-901. doi: 10.1046/j.1528-1157.2001.042007895.x.


Purpose: We sought to characterize and compare the histopathologic and clinical changes elicited by subdural and depth electrodes in subjects undergoing epilepsy surgery evaluation.

Methods: A retrospective review of clinical records, imaging and histopathologic studies of epilepsy surgery cases requiring subdural strips and depth electrodes for localization of epileptogenic tissue was performed between 1993 and 1999. Forty-nine subjects had a combination of subdural and depth, whereas 10 had depth electrodes only. Histopathologic changes were classified as mild, moderate, or severe based on the density, extent, and composition of the inflammatory infiltrate.

Results: Subdural electrodes induced a clinical picture of transient aseptic meningitis; histopathologically, the infiltrates were moderate in degree in the majority (73%) and severe in the remainder (27%), with T cells and eosinophils infiltrating the cortex and arteriolar walls (hypersensitivity-type response). Depth electrodes alone caused minimal or no symptoms of meningeal irritation; the cellular response elicited by these electrodes was mild in five and moderate in the remaining five cases; severe inflammation was not observed in this group. Although the proportion of small clinically silent hematomas was larger in cases with depth (five of 59) compared with subdural electrodes (one of 49), microhemorrhages were considerably more numerous with subdural than with depth electrodes.

Conclusions: These results suggest that the spectrum of brain responses to foreign bodies is wide, ranging from self-limited physiologic to hypersensitivity-type reactions of varying severity. Subdural strips elicited more intense inflammation than did depth electrodes. The histopathologic extent of the reaction to either type of electrodes could not be precisely defined because of the retrospective nature of this study. History of allergy to latex or previous craniotomies are probable risk factors for the hypersensitivity-type reaction. Surgical outcome, excellent in the majority, was independent of the severity or type of inflammation, and there have not been neurologic or systemic sequelae.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / surgery
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electrodes, Implanted / adverse effects*
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / surgery*
  • Foreign-Body Reaction / etiology
  • Foreign-Body Reaction / pathology
  • Humans
  • Meninges / blood supply*
  • Meninges / pathology
  • Meningitis, Aseptic / etiology*
  • Meningitis, Aseptic / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Subarachnoid Space / pathology
  • Subdural Space / pathology
  • Vasculitis, Leukocytoclastic, Cutaneous / etiology*
  • Vasculitis, Leukocytoclastic, Cutaneous / pathology