Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a treatment option for children with epilepsy who do not respond to medication, are not candidates for epilepsy surgery, and will not tolerate or have not responded to the ketogenic diet.

Complete control of seizures cannot be expected with VNS, but approximately 50% of patients have a 50% reduction in seizures after one to two years.

In some children, seizures are shorter, or the postictal state (the period between when a seizure ends and when the child returns to their baseline condition) is less disabling; some seizures can be stopped by activating the VNS during the aura.

If your child is not already under the care of a neurologist with CHOP's Neuroscience Center and you would like to explore the possibility of VNS treatment, contact us for a second opinion consultation.

How does VNS work?

VNS attempts to control seizures by sending small pulses of energy to the brain from the vagus nerve, which is a large nerve in the neck.

This is done by surgically placing a small battery into the chest wall. Small wires are attached to the battery and placed under the skin and around the vagus nerve. The battery is then programmed to send energy impulses to the brain every few minutes.

When the child feels a seizure coming on, he/she may manually activate the impulses by holding a small magnet over the battery. In many people, this will help to stop the seizure.

Side effects of VNS

There are some side effects that may occur with the use of VNS. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Hoarseness
  • Pain or discomfort in the throat
  • Change in voice

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