Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is an innovative alternative for patients who do not respond to traditional anti-epileptic medical therapy.
VNS involves a pacemaker, which is implanted over the left chest wall. It has a spiral electrode attached to the vagus nerve in the mid-portion of the neck, which delivers an intermittent electrical pulse. When a patient feels a seizure coming on, the device is activated manually by placing a small magnet against the chest. This electrical stimulation is designed to dramatically reduce seizure frequency in patients who have not responded well to medication. The implant procedure itself is relatively simple and usually requires no more than a one-night hospital stay.
The Epilepsy Program has played a critical role in the development of VNS and is one of the largest centers in the United States employing this technique. In fact, after the FDA approval, the first VNS implant in the U.S. not involved in a clinical trial was done at USC. Our research efforts have also focused on studying the effectiveness, safety and mechanism of action of VNS.
VNS may benefit patients who are ineligible for epilepsy surgery as well as those who would like to avoid the risk a major surgical procedure.