Allergy Considerations in Implanted Neuromodulation Devices

Neuromodulation. 2021 Dec;24(8):1307-1316. doi: 10.1111/ner.13332. Epub 2021 Jan 11.


Objectives: Allergic reactions are rare and poorly understood complications of neuromodulation device implantation. There are currently no guidelines for management of allergic reactions to these devices and their components. Here we review the published cases of allergic reactions to implanted neuromodulatory devices and leverage the experiences of other specialties that deal with similar complications to formulate recommendations for prevention and management.

Materials and methods: A review and assessment of the literature.

Results: Allergic reactions to a number of implantable devices have been observed and published. In dentistry and orthopedics, metals such as nickel are the most frequent cause of allergic reactions. In interventional cardiology, where devices closely resemble neuromodulatory devices, titanium, silicone, and polyurethanes are the most common causes of allergic reactions. In neurosurgery, allergic reactions to implantable neuromodulatory devices are rare, and we summarize 13 cases published to date. Such allergic reactions generally present as local dermatitis, erythema, and pruritus, which can be difficult to distinguish from surgical site infection. In one published case, symptoms resolved with corticosteroid treatment, but all other cases required explantation. The successful reimplantation with a modified device was reported in some cases.

Conclusions: Patients should be screened for a personal history of contact allergy before implantation procedures. A multidisciplinary approach to suspected cases of postoperative allergic reactions involving collaboration between neurosurgeons and other implanting physicians, dermatologists or allergists, and device manufacturers is recommended. In cases where an allergic reaction is suspected, an infectious etiology should be ruled out first. Clinical suspicion can then be supported with the use of patch testing, interpreted by an experienced dermatologist or allergist. If patch testing supports an allergic etiology, the implanting physician and the device manufacturer can work together to modify the device for safe reimplantation.

Keywords: Allergic reaction; allergy; complications; deep brain stimulation (DBS); electrodes; hardware failure; hypersensitivity; neuromodulation; responsive neurostimulation (RNS); spinal cord stimulation (SCS); vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact*
  • Device Removal
  • Erythema
  • Humans
  • Patch Tests
  • Prostheses and Implants