Deep brain stimutor devices are currently far from perfect and they can fail under certain circumstances.  Deep brain stimulation involves implanting an electrode implant stimulator deep inside the brain.  This implant delivers electricity to the surrounding brain tissue.  The electricity can modify the firing pattern of neurons around the implant and this has a therapeutic effect for various brain disorders.  It can alter brain activity for a beneficial effect in several illnesses, such as parkinson’s and depression. To get a deep brain stimulation implant, you have to undergo brain surgery which carries numerous risks.  

This article has a good overview of the hazards of deep brain stimulator failure. 

There have been concerns about potential side effects of deep brain stimulation for some time now. New evidence suggests an additional hazard: the devices can malfunction under certain circumstances.  Magnets, metal detectors, MRI machines, and other sources of electromagnetic interference may cause deep brain stimulators to reset or fire unexpectedly. In fact, some of the initial studies conducted by the FDA indicated a high prevalence of adverse reactions, some of which were caused by device failure.

These are some of the adverse effects of deep brain stimulation implants that have been reported by the FDA that were probably caused by x-ray and CT scans. 

  • Unintended “shocks” (i.e., stimuli) from neurostimulators
  • Transient changes in pacemaker output pulse rate

This page here has an interesting first hand account of one of these deep brain stimulator failures.

My neurosurgeon said he knew of only two ways this could have happened: equipment failure (which seemed unlikely, because the device was reprogrammed and, within an hour, I felt fine) or exposure to a large source of electromagnetic interference. But I always go out of my way to avoid known sources of EMI. So what could it have been?

Deep brain stimulation has enormous potential for many brain based disorders, but there are also numerous risks associated with this treatment modality that must be considered.  Deep brain stimulator failure is a problem and will probably continue to happen until these devices become more reliable.

Brain Injury Lawyer is a blog about brain disorders, brain injury, brain injury lawyers and brain injury law