WHAT IS VAGUS NERVE STIMULATION?
VNS Therapy consists of an implanted pacemaker-like pulse generator and a nerve stimulation electrode, which deliver intermittent stimulation to the patient's left vagus nerve. The actual procedure takes approximately 1 hour and does not involve the brain. The procedure is typically performed under general anesthesia on an outpatient basis by otolaryngologists, vascular surgeons, neurosurgeons, or general surgeons. The surgical complication rate is low, with an infection rate of 1.7%.4
The procedure requires two small incisions: one in the left chest area, below the collarbone, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long. The VNS Therapy pulse generator is placed just under the skin. The other incision is made in a natural crease in the left side of the neck, which is 1 to 2 inches long. From here, electrodes are wrapped around the vagus nerve in the neck. A thin, flexible wire then connects the electrodes to the pulse generator
Recently, vagus nerve stimulation was approved as an adjunctive long-term treatment of chronic or recurrent depression for patients 18 years of age or older who are experiencing a major depressive episode and have not had an adequate response to four or more adequate antidepressant treatments.
In addition to treatment-resistant depression and drug-resistant epilepsy indications, VNS Therapy is at various stages of investigational clinical studies as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders, Alzheimer's disease, bulimia and chronic headache/migraine.