by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Deep Brain Stimulator Infection; Spinal Cord Stimulator Infection)


A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) device sits under the skin. Thin wires run from the device to nerves at the spinal cord. Mild electric signals pass through the wires. The SCS helps to block pain signals.

Germs can collect on the device and start an infection. It can spread into the fluid around the brain and spine.


Germs can attach to the device as it is being placed or once it is inside. It is hard for the body to fight germs on the device itself. This gives the germs a chance to grow and spread before the body reacts. The germs pass from the device to nerves and fluid around the spine. There it can cause a serious illness. The infection is most often caused by a bacteria.

Risk Factors

There are no known risk factors.


You may have:

  • Redness, warmth, and swelling around the site
  • Pain
  • Fluid or pus leaking from the site
  • Fever, chills


The doctor will examine the area. An infection may be clear with this exam.

Blood and fluid around the brain or spin may be tested. They can show signs of infection.

Images of the area may be needed. This can be done with:


The goal of treatment is to stop the infection. Antibiotics may help the body clear the infection.

Surgery may be needed for severe infections. The device will be removed and medicine may be placed in the area.


The care team takes many steps to prevent infection from a surgery. Medicine may also be given before surgery to lower the risk of infections.


Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians 

Hydrocephalus Association 


Canadian Patient Safety Institute 

Health Canada 


Central nervous system device infections. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated April 17, 2018. Accessed May 11, 2018.

Deep brain stimulation. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed May 14, 2018.

Spinal cord stimulation. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed May 14, 2018.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA
  • Review Date: 05/2020
  • Update Date: 06/26/2020