Vagus Nerve Stimulation at NYU Winthrop Hospital
Advanced Epilepsy Treatment
For adults and children over 12 with partial onset seizures, and who do not qualify for conventional epilepsy surgery or do not respond to anti-epileptic medications, vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has been shown to reduce the brain’s potential to generate abnormal seizure activity.
An advanced treatment option offered by specialized epilepsy programs such as NYU Winthrop’s, VNS is FDA-approved as an adjunctive therapy to reduce seizure intensity and frequency. Vagus nerve stimulation does not involve brain surgery, is mechanically and electrically safe and has been successful used for more than 50,000 patients worldwide.
How Does Vagus Nerve Stimulation Work?
VNS inhibits seizures by delivering mild, intermittent electrical pulsed signals to the brain via the vagus nerve. The energy stems from a compact, pacemaker-like disc surgically implanted in the left chest, with electrodes tunneled under the skin and wrapped around the vagus nerve.
Once implanted by a neurosurgeon, each patient’s device is programmed by a neurologist using non-invasive computer software to deliver a selected “dose” of stimulation automatically, based on patient tolerance and seizure response. Should a patient or caregiver sense the start of a seizure, they can activate extra, on-demand stimulation by passing a hand-held magnet over the implanted generator.
While vagus nerve stimulation patients rarely become seizure-free, a significant number experience fewer seizures. In clinical trials, the treatment resulted in median reductions in seizures of 31.3%, 40.7% and 40.4% at one, two and three years respectively. Alertness, daytime sleepiness, mood and memory have shown improvement in VNS therapy patients. While it is almost always necessary to continue anti-epileptic medication, the number of medications and the dosages can usually be reduced.