Occipital nerve stimulator lead pathway length changes with volunteer movement: An in vitro study

Terrence L. Trentman, Jeff T. Mueller, Deepesh M. Shah, Richard S. Zimmerman, Brie M. Noble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Occipital nerve stimulation is a modality reserved for refractory headache disorders. Leads (wires) are inserted subcutaneously in the occipital region to stimulate the distal C1-3 nerves; lead migration may result from repeated mechanical forces on the lead associated with patient movement. The primary aim of this study was to determine implantation pathways associated with the least pathway length change secondary to body movement in an in vitro model of an occipital stimulator system. Methods: After institutional review board approval, 10 volunteers were recruited. The expected pathway of an occipital stimulator system was identified and measured externally, and then changes in pathway length were measured during various volunteer movements, including neck and low back flexion, extension, rotation, and lateral flexion. The pathways studied included those that connect internal pulse generators in the gluteal, low abdominal, and infraclavicular regions to occipital leads inserted via a cervical or retromastoid approach. Results: The flexion/extension pathway length changes associated with midline occipital and retromastoid sites to the infraclavicular site were significantly less than those pathways to the periscapular site. Also, the abdominal site was associated with less pathway length change during flexion/extension than the gluteal site. Conclusions: Internal pulse generators in sites other than the buttock, including infraclavicular or low abdomen, may be associated with lower lead migration risk. There are many considerations when selecting insertion sites and lead pathways for occipital nerve stimulation. Implanters and patients may consider these results when contemplating surgical approaches to this challenging form of peripheral nerve stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-48
Number of pages7
JournalPain Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010


  • Complications
  • Headache
  • Implantation
  • Occipital nerve stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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