VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulation)

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.

Side Effects

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.

Mayo Clinic