Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) can be helpful for patients who suffer from epilepsy.

It is a device used to prevent or lesson seizures by sending regular, mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain through the vagus nerve. It is also used to shorten the recovery time it takes to rebound after a seizure. The vagus nerve is part of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary bodily functions such as heart rate and breathing.

It sends information from the brain to other areas of the body and it also carries information from the body to the brain. This type of therapy does not cure epilepsy. Adults or children 4 years and older can use VNS, however, not everyone is a candidate for it. It’s primarily indicated for patients with partial onset seizures (seizures that start in one part of the brain).

It is also intended for patients who aren’t controlled after trying at least 2 types of medications, and for those who aren’t good candidates for brain surgery or do not want to do a brain surgery. VNS will not help seizures that are not epileptic and not associated with electrical activity in the brain.

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For this type of epilepsy treatment, implanting a VNS device involves a short surgical procedure which usually lasts between 45 to 90 minutes. The device is round and flat, similar in size to a silver dollar coin.

A doctor will put the patient under general anesthesia and then make a small incision on the upper left side of the chest to implant the pulse-generating device. He’ll then make a second incision on the left side of their lower neck and run a connecting flexible wire under their skin from the stimulator to an electrode attached to the vagus nerve.

The wire is wrapped around the vagus nerve to provide stimulation. The device is programmed by the neurologist to generate electrical pulses which are sent via the vagus nerve to stimulate the brain at regular intervals, depending on how much the patient can take and it can be adjustable at any point in time at the neurologists’ office. The patient will get a magnetic kit.

This magnet can be handheld or worn on the patients’ wrist and when they get a warning (aura) or someone sees them having a seizure, they can self-activate the stimulator device by swiping the magnet over the generator in the left chest area. The stimulator will generate an immediate current of electricity to stop or shorten a seizure in progress.

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