Implantable electronic stimulation devices from head to sacrum: Imaging features and functions

Jonathan Sterman, Alain Cunqueiro, R. Joshua Dym, Michael Spektor, Michael L. Lipton, Margarita V. Revzin, Meir H. Scheinfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Understanding the unique imaging characteristics and system components of implantable electronic stimulation devices, from deep brain stimulation to sacral nerve stimulation devices, allows radiologists to detect complications and causes of failure. Electronic stimulation devices are implanted in various locations in the body to decrease pain, modulate nerve function, or stimulate various end organs. The authors describe these devices using a craniocaudal approach, first describing deep brain stimulation (DBS) devices and ending with sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) devices. The radiology-relevant background information for each device and its imaging appearance are also described. These devices have a common design theme and include the following components: (a) a pulse generator that houses the battery and control electronics, (b) an insulated lead or wire that conveys signals to the last component, which is (c) an electrode that contacts the end organ and senses and/or acts on the end organ. DBS electrodes are inserted into various deep gray nuclei, most commonly to treat the symptoms of movement disorders. Occipital, trigeminal, and spinal nerve stimulation devices are used as second-line therapy to control craniofacial or back pain. For cardiac devices, the authors describe two newer devices, the subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator and the leadless pacemaker, both of which avoid complications related to having leads threaded through the venous system. Diaphragmatic stimulation devices stimulate the phrenic nerve to restore diaphragmatic movement. Gastric electrical stimulation devices act on various parts of the stomach for the treatment of gastroparesis or obesity. Finally, SNS devices are used to modulate urinary and defecatory functions. Common complications diagnosed at imaging include infection, hematoma, lead migration, and lead breakage. Understanding the components, normal function, and normal imaging appearance of each device allows the radiologist to identify complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1056-1074
Number of pages19
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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