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J Neurosurg Pediatr. 2009 Jan;3(1):73-8. doi: 10.3171/2008.10.PEDS08294.

Management of vagal nerve stimulator infections: do they need to be removed?

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.



Vagal nerve stimulators (VNSs) have been used successfully to treat medically refractory epilepsy. Although their efficacy is well established, appropriate management of infections is less clearly defined. In the authors' experience, patients who have gained a benefit from VNS implantation have been reluctant to have the device removed. The authors therefore sought conservative management options to salvage infected VNS systems.


The authors performed a retrospective review of 191 (93 female and 98 male) consecutive patients in whom VNS systems were placed between 2000 and 2007.


They identified 10 infections (5.2%). In 9 of 10 patients the cultured organism was Staphylococcus aureus. Three (30%) of 10 patients underwent early removal (within 1 month) of the VNS as the initial treatment. The remaining 7 patients were initially treated with antibiotics. Two (28.6%) of these patients were successfully treated using antibiotics without VNS removal. Patients in whom conservative treatment failed were given cephalexin as first-line antibiotic treatment. All patients recovered completely regardless of treatment regimen.


This study confirms the low rate of infection associated with VNS placement and suggests that, in the case of infection, treatment without removal is a viable option. However, the authors' data suggest that oral antibiotics are not the best first-line therapy.

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