Lightning Can Affect Deep Brain Stimulation Devices

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Case report of 66-year-old woman whose implantable pulse generator switched off after lightning strike
Case report of 66-year-old woman whose implantable pulse generator switched off after lightning strike

(HealthDay News) — Lightning, which can result in strong electromagnetic fields (EMFs), can interfere with deep brain stimulation (DBS) devices, according to a case report published online May 1 in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

Noting that DBS is susceptible to strong EMFs and that manufacturers of DBS devices have issued a list of warnings on how to avoid the danger associated with very strong EMFs, Nėza Prezelj, M.D., from University Medical Centre Ljubljana in Slovenia, and colleagues presented the case of a 66-year-old woman whose DBS was affected by a strong EMF from a natural force.

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The researchers note that the patient was being treated with a rechargeable DBS system for neck dystonia. Her apartment was struck by lightning and domestic electronic devices that were operating during the event were burned and destroyed. The woman's implantable pulse generator switched off, but it was not damaged. The woman did not suffer neurologic consequences.

"We also advise all clinicians to regularly warn DBS patients to strictly follow the manufacturer's safety recommendations and not to charge the recharger and IPG simultaneously during a thunderstorm," the authors write. "We propose that in the future, DBS manufacturers' safety recommendations should specifically mention the possibility of hazards from naturally generated electromagnetic interference, such as during thunderstorms."

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