Vagus nerve stimulation or VNS therapy

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Vagus nerve stimulation or VNS therapy

Vagus nerve stimulation or VNS therapy is a technique used to treat epilepsy. Mild impulses of electric current are under control, due to their effect on the body, seizures of epilepsy decrease in intensity, and sometimes completely stop. Seizures occur less frequently and are more easily tolerated by the patient.  

The vagus nerve is the “conduit” that connects the brain to the body. Thanks to him, the brain is able to control the work of internal organs. Also, this “communication channel” allows you to conduct a return signal: from the body to the brain. The method of stimulating the vagus nerve consists in placing a miniature apparatus under the patient’s skin – a programmable generator of electrical impulses. This device is implanted in the clavicle on the left side of the body. The electrodes of the apparatus are attached to the left vagus nerve. Further, the electrostimulator , carrying out a given program, will begin to send a weak signal of electric current to the brain. The principle of operation of the device, in fact, resembles a pacemaker.

To enhance the therapeutic effect, electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve is carried out in conjunction with drug therapy. In the future, this allows you to reduce the dose of consumption of antiepileptic drugs. This technique is applicable in the treatment of drug- resistant epilepsy. This type of disease differs in that it cannot be corrected with medications. When drugs do not bring the desired result, and surgical intervention in the body is also not advisable, stimulation of the vagus nerve will be the best treatment option.

The advantages of the presented type of treatment

  • The frequency and intensity of epileptic seizures decreases.
  • Automatic exposure mode 24 hours a day.
  • No side effects that pharmaceuticals may have.
  • Strengthening the positive effect of drugs, reducing their use in the future.
  • Providing a positive effect on the patient’s body in such forms of the disease that cannot be corrected with drugs.

How the device is installed

The device is installed by making small incisions in the neck area. Then the device is implanted under the skin in the region of the left clavicle, and electrodes are implanted on the vagus nerve on the left side of the body. Stimulator dimensions: 4 by 1 cm. After the device is implanted, a slight bulge will be observed on the skin. The operation to install the device is performed under general anesthesia.

The stimulator is pre-programmed by the clinic’s specialists. Doctors are engaged in the selection and setting of a certain frequency, intensity and duration of impulses. Further, observing the patient’s tolerance of the device, it is possible to change the settings of the stimulator. In addition, the patient is given a magnet: when he brings it to the device implanted under the skin, he will immediately feel the impulse. In this way, epileptic seizures can be prevented or reduced in intensity.

The device operates on battery charge, which should last for several years. Then the device is replaced.

Contraindications to use and possible complications

VNS therapy is undesirable for diseases of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, as well as in the presence of an installed pacemaker.

After the installation process of the electrostimulator, the patient may feel a sore throat, as well as experience coughing and shortness of breath. However, these symptoms are of short duration.

Do not forget about operational risks, such as blood loss, damage to blood vessels and nerves, etc.

The doctor is obliged to tell the patient in detail about the upcoming operation and weigh the possible risks, as well as the advisability of using VNS therapy.

Precautions for using a pacemaker

  • Not in close proximity to strong magnets.
  • Avoid visiting places that are contraindicated for persons with an installed stimulant.
  • If an MRI is necessary, be sure to inform the doctor about the installed device.

At the same time, it is worth noting that household electronic devices do not affect the vagus nerve stimulator. Patients can use microwave ovens and mobile phones without harm to the body.

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