Patients suffering from epilepsy that doesn’t respond to traditional treatment may find relief from vagus nerve stimulation. In this procedure, electrical impulses are used to stimulate the vagus nerve, a process that can effectively prevent seizures.
How It Works
A device similar to a pacemaker is implanted in the skin of your chest. A subcutaneous wire is then connected to the left vagus nerve of your neck. Once activated, the device (called a vagus nerve stimulator, or VNS) transmits electrical pulses along the vagus nerve to your brain. These signals reduce the frequency and severity of seizures.
The VNS can be programmed by a doctor outside the body, who will set up a schedule that delivers electrical signals of varying intensity in cycles. It can also be controlled by the patient with a handheld magnet that allows it to be turned on or off manually. If you feel a seizure coming on, turning the device on may prevent the seizure from occurring.
Vagus nerve stimulation has been proven to be a safe and effective method for treating epilectic seizures. Side effects are rare and tend to be mild; they might include coughing, sore throat and hoarseness, a change in voice, and shortness of breath. Some patients develop obstructive sleep apnea.
Vagus nerve stimulation does not provide a cure for epilepsy, but it has been proven to reduce the number of seizures by up to 50%. It should be used in conjunction with antiepileptic medications for maximum effectiveness.WebMD