The number and nature of emergency department encounters in patients with deep brain stimulators

Andrew S Resnick, Kelly D Foote, Ramon L Rodriguez, Irene A Malaty, Joel L Moll, Donna L Carden, Nolie E Krock, Matthew M Medley, Adam Burdick, Ihtsham U Haq, Michael S Okun
Journal of Neurology 2010, 257 (1): 122-31

UNLABELLED: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has become an increasingly common modality for control of several neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, dystonia, essential tremor (ET), and others. Our experience has demonstrated the need for emergency physicians to familiarize themselves with the potential complications of the DBS device as well as the device itself. Therefore, our aim in this paper was to elucidate the number and nature of DBS and non-DBS presentations to the emergency department (ED) and to educate and familiarize ED physicians about DBS devices and their potential complications. We also aimed to devise a simple protocol for DBS management so that all ED physicians would have access to the knowledge or referral capabilities when managing a DBS patient. The objective of the present study was to review the number and nature of ED encounters in patients with deep brain stimulation (DBS) devices implanted for movement and neuropsychiatric disorders.

METHODS: The series of encounters reviewed included 215 unique patients with DBS implantation who were identified using an IRB approved database and a paper chart review. Patients in the study included those implanted at University of Florida (UF), as well as those implanted at outside institutions, so long as they were followed at UF. The cohort included n = 215 DBS patients. 25.6% of all 215 patients presented to the ED at least once, with the most common presentation occurring as a result of a decline in mental status when taking into account all visits (6%). Reasons for presentation to the ED included neurological (54.6%), infections/hardware issues (27.9%), orthopedic/focal problems (10.5%), and medical issues (7%). In total, 29 patients arrived at the ED for DBS related issues (23.2%). Of those who presented to the ED (n = 55), the average age was 53.1 (range 10-80 years). Headache was the most common complaint within the neurological category (22.1%), followed by change in mental status (15.1%), and syncope (9.3%). When examining the data by ED diagnosis, change in mental status occurred most commonly in Parkinson's disease (19.6%). Falls were most common in essential tremor (27.2%), and headache occurred most commonly in the dystonia group (52.1%). Across all diseases, mental status change was the most common indication for an ED encounter (6%). Parkinson disease patients most commonly presented with altered mental status (8%), essential tremor patients revealed a high preponderance of falls (6.5%), and dystonia patients tended to present with headache (7.1%). It was concluded that a large number of patients with DBS will present to the ED for many reasons, the majority of which will not be direct complications of their DBS device. Neurological issues were the most common chief complaint, with individual differences depending on the underlying disease. It is important for ED physicians to consider non-DBS related complaints in the presentation of these unique patients since these issues comprise the majority of the ED visits. However, when properly evaluating these patients, management of their DBS device, or referrals to neurosurgery and neurology, if necessary, are imperative. In addition to device management, regular ED standards of care should apply to this special cohort of patients.

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