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Epilepsia. 1998 Jul;39(7):677-86.

Vagus nerve stimulation.

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Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Left vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a promising new treatment for epilepsy. In 1997, VNS was approved in the United States as an adjunctive treatment for medically refractory partial-onset seizures in adults and adolescents. For some patients with partial-onset seizures, the adverse effects of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are intolerable; for others, no single AED or combination of anticonvulsant agents is effective. Cerebral resective surgery is an option to pharmacotherapy in some cases, but many patients with partial-onset seizures are not optimal candidates for intracranial surgery. VNS entails implantation of a programmable signal generator--the Neuro-cybernetic Prosthesis (NCP)--in the chest cavity. The stimulating electrodes of the NCP carry electrical signals from the generator to the left vagus nerve. Although the mechanism of action of VNS is not known, controlled studies have shown that it is safe and well-tolerated by patients with long-standing partial-onset epilepsy. Side effects, which are generally of mild to moderate severity, almost always disappear after the stimulation settings are adjusted. Encouraging results have also been reported in pediatric patients.

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