Other Treatments for Epilepsy
by Rick Alan
For Managing Epileptic Seizures
Vagus Nerve Stimulator
The vagus nerve stimulator is used in patients whose epileptic seizures are not well-controlled with medicine. The stimulator is a battery-powered device. It is surgically implanted under the skin, similar to the implantation of a pacemaker. It is connected to the vagus nerve and delivers short bursts of electricity to the brain via the vagus nerve in the neck.
This device helps to reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures. Improvement is often slow; it may take up to two years to see the full effect. Patients with a vagus nerve stimulator may need to stay on medicine, but can often reduce the dosage. The vagus nerve stimulator may also improve other symptoms, such as depression and level of alertness.
Batteries in the device usually need to be replaced every five years. This is done via an outpatient surgical procedure.
Side effects are mild, such as:
When to Contact Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if you (or your child):
American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home.html .
Berkow R. The Merck Manual of Medical Information . 17th ed. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster; 2000.
Epilepsy Foundation website. Available at: http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/ .
Jobst BC. Electrical stimulation in epilepsy: vagus nerve and brain stimulation. Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2010;12:443-453.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/ .
Last reviewed March 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 03/15/2013