Deep Brain Electrode Externalization and Risk of Infection: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Alon Kashanian, Pratik Rohatgi, Srinivas Chivukula, Sameer A. Sheth, Nader Pouratian

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: When evaluating deep brain stimulation (DBS) for newer indications, patients may benefit from trial stimulation prior to permanent implantation or for investigatory purposes. Although several case series have evaluated infectious complications among DBS patients who underwent trials with external hardware, outcomes have been inconsistent. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether a period of lead externalization is associated with an increased risk of infection. METHODS: We conducted a Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses compliant systematic review of all studies that included rates of infection for patients who were externalized prior to DBS implantation. A meta-analysis of proportions was performed to estimate the pooled proportion of infection across studies, and a meta-analysis of relative risks was conducted on those studies that included a control group of nonexternalized patients. Heterogeneity across studies was assessed via I2 index. RESULTS: Our search retrieved 23 articles, comprising 1354 patients who underwent lead externalization. The pooled proportion of infection was 6.9% (95% CI: 4.7%-9.5%), with a moderate to high level of heterogeneity between studies (I2 = 62.2%; 95% CI: 40.7-75.9; P <. 0001). A total of 3 studies, comprising 212 externalized patients, included a control group. Rate of infection in externalized patients was 5.2% as compared to 6.0% in nonexternalized patients. However, meta-analysis was inadequately powered to determine whether there was indeed no difference in infection rate between the groups. CONCLUSION: The rate of infection in patients with electrode externalization is comparable to that reported in the literature for DBS implantation without a trial period. Future studies are needed before this information can be confidently used in the clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-150
Number of pages10
JournalOperative Neurosurgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Adverse events
  • Complications
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Externalization
  • Infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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