BACK GROUND: We describe an approach to vagal nerve stimulator (VNS) lead replacement through the posterior cervical triangle. Scar around the structures of the carotid sheath is avoided and new leads are placed on a pristine section of the vagus nerve proximal to the original site.
CLINICAL PRESENTATION: Skin incision from the implantation surgery is incorporated and extended to allow access to the posterior border of the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM). Dissection proceeds along the posterior border of the SCM. The SCM and jugular vein are retracted anterior to expose a fresh segment of the vagal nerve immediately superficial to the carotid artery and proximal to the original electrode site. Once the nerve is adequately exposed, electrode placement proceeds in the standard fashion. Dysfunctional electrodes are left in place, and the lead wire is cut as near the electrodes as can be easily accessed. Three patients have undergone lead revision with this approach. Lead placement was successful and free from complications in all cases.
CONCLUSION: The posterior cervical triangle approach provides a virgin dissection plane for VNS revision.