Surgical and Hardware Complications of Deep Brain Stimulation-A Single Surgeon Experience of 519 Cases Over 20 Years

Neuromodulation. 2022 Aug;25(6):895-903. doi: 10.1111/ner.13360. Epub 2022 Feb 15.


Objective: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery has its own set of risks and complications. This study from a single center and a single surgeon analyzes various risk factors for complications and tries to establish if there is a learning curve effect in minimizing the complications.

Materials and methods: A retrospective analysis of 519 patients (1024 leads) who underwent DBS surgery and 232 patients who underwent implantable pulse generator replacement (IPG), by a single surgeon, between the years 1999 and 2019 was performed. Perioperative and hardware related complications were evaluated.

Results: The follow-up period ranged from six months to 20 years. Surgery-related complications occurred in 46 (8.9%) cases which included confusion in 31 (5.98%), intracerebral hemorrhage in 7 (1.3%), vasovagal attack in 3 (0.58%), respiratory distress in 2 (0.38%), postoperative aggressiveness in 1 (0.19%), and blepharospasm in 2 (0.38%) patients. Complications related to the DBS hardware were found in 35 cases, including erosion and infection in 22 (2.95%), inaccurate lead placement or migration in 6 (0.6%) lead fracture/extension wire failure in 2 (0.26%), IPG malfunction in 2 (0.26%), and hardware discomfort in 3 (0.4%) cases. In three patients, one lead was repositioned. In cases of infection, 87% of patients had either partial or complete removal of hardware. There was no mortality. The complications were analyzed for every 100 DBS procedures. There was a significant drop in the percentage of complications in from 23% in the first 100 cases to 7% in the last 100 cases (p < 0.0001).

Conclusion: Confusion remains the most frequent operative and perioperative complication. Erosion and infection of the surgical site represents the most frequent hardware complication. DBS surgery is safe and the complication rates are acceptably low. The complication rate also decreases with cumulative years of experience, demonstrating a learning curve effect.

Keywords: Complications; confusion; deep brain stimulation surgery; hardware complications; hemorrhage; infection.

MeSH terms

  • Deep Brain Stimulation* / adverse effects
  • Deep Brain Stimulation* / methods
  • Electrodes, Implanted / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgeons*