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‘My Direct Brain Stimulator has been struck by lightning’ (case report)

Nowadays, many patients with neurological problems are fitted with Direct Brain Stimulation (DBS) devices such as Implantable Pulse Generators (IPGs). However, like any electronic devices, they can be adversely affected by strong electrical and electromagnetic fields. A recent case was brought to light in the Journal of Neurosurgery, describing the plight of a 66-year-old woman who had been fitted with a bilateral globus pallidus internus DBS implant :

“The electrical installation of her apartment was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm. Electrical devices (a television and air conditioner) operating in the apartment at that time were burned and destroyed. The patient was not charging the battery of her IPG during the event, and the recharger for the IPG was disconnected from the power supply during the storm. The recharger and IPG were therefore not destroyed. The patient realized that something was wrong only 1 hour after the storm subsided, when the dystonic tremor in her neck reappeared. When she checked the function of her IPG, the POR (Power On Reset) warning appeared on her patient programmer’s display. The patient was afraid that her IPG was damaged and came to the outpatient clinic for assistance.”

Fortunately, an examination showed that all was well with the patient and her device, which was reset, and then continued to function normally. The authors of the paper therefore advise :

“Patients should be regularly warned to avoid environmental sources that generate strong EMFs, such as arc welding equipment, electronic power generators, electrical substations, ham radio antennas, power lines, microwave communication transmitters, industrial furnaces, induction heaters, resistance welders, and transmission towers for television and radio signals.”

See: Lightning may pose a danger to patients receiving deep brain stimulation: case report J Neurosurg, May 1, 2018.

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