Short circuit in deep brain stimulation

J Neurosurg 117:955–961, 2012

The authors undertook this study to investigate the incidence, cause, and clinical influence of short circuits in patients treated with deep brain stimulation (DBS).

Methods. After the incidental identification of a short circuit during routine follow-up, the authors initiated a policy at their institution of routinely evaluating both therapeutic impedance and system impendence at every outpatient DBS follow-up visit, irrespective of the presence of symptoms suggesting possible system malfunction. This study represents a report of their findings after 1 year of this policy.

Results. Implanted DBS leads exhibiting short circuits were identified in 7 patients (8.9% of the patients seen for outpatient follow-up examinations during the 12-month study period). The mean duration from DBS lead implantation to the discovery of the short circuit was 64.7 months. The symptoms revealing short circuits included the wearing off of therapeutic effect, apraxia of eyelid opening, or dysarthria in 6 patients with Parkinson disease (PD), and dystonia deterioration in 1 patient with generalized dystonia. All DBS leads with short circuits had been anchored to the cranium using titanium miniplates. Altering electrode settings resulted in clinical improvement in the 2 PD cases in which patients had specific symptoms of short circuits (2.5%) but not in the other 4 cases. The patient with dystonia underwent repositioning and replacement of a lead because the previous lead was located too anteriorly, but did not experience symptom improvement.

Conclusions. In contrast to the sudden loss of clinical efficacy of DBS caused by an open circuit, short circuits may arise due to a gradual decrease in impedance, causing the insidious development of neurological symptoms via limited or extended potential fields as well as shortened battery longevity. The incidence of short circuits in DBS may be higher than previously thought, especially in cases in which DBS leads are anchored with miniplates. The circuit impedance of DBS should be routinely checked, even after a long history of DBS therapy, especially in cases of miniplate anchoring.