If Medication Is Not Enough, VNS Therapy® May Be Right for You
Fortunately, there are other epilepsy treatments that may help control your seizures and improve your quality of life even when medications are not enough. One of the options we may recommend is vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) Therapy. VNS Therapy is indicated for use as an adjunctive therapy in reducing the frequency of seizures in adults and adolescents older than 12 years of age with partial onset seizures that do not respond to anti-seizure medications.
VNS Therapy is a unique treatment developed for people with medication-resistant epilepsy. It is a small implanted device that works with any of your current or future medications, as well as other treatments. Since its introduction in 1997, more than 80,000 people worldwide have chosen VNS Therapy to help control their seizures.
VNS Therapy does not involve brain surgery, and it is not a medication. It does not have the side effects often associated with medications, such as depression, dizziness, confusion, weight changes, tiredness and sleep problems. The most commonly reported side effects include hoarseness, sore throat, shortness of breath and coughing. Side effects of VNS Therapy typically occur during stimulation. They are usually mild and decrease over time.
Because VNS Therapy works automatically, around the clock, there is no need to remember when to take a dose. VNS Therapy works whether or not you experience auras.
The Unique Patient Magnet Puts Control in Your Hands
The unique patient magnet is included in the kit given to everyone who receives VNS Therapy. This magnet may offer more control for you or a caregiver. VNS Therapy works well whether or not you use the magnet.
You can apply the magnet if you feel a seizure coming on. Even if you do not typically experience auras, your caregiver or another trusted friend can use the magnet if a seizure starts. Using the magnet may also allow you or your caregiver to:
- Stop the seizure
- Shorten the seizure
- Decrease the intensity of the seizure
- Reduce the recovery period after the seizure
You can also affix or hold the magnet over your VNS Therapy generator to temporarily stop automatic stimulation, if desired.
Remember, VNS Therapy is effective whether or not you have auras. VNS Therapy is always working, whether or not you use the magnet.
The VNS Therapy Procedure
Getting VNS Therapy Implanted
- Implantation is a short outpatient procedure that may take 1 to 2 hours and usually involves general anesthesia
- During the procedure, a small pacemaker-like generator and a thin flexible wire (or lead) are placed under the skin, usually in the left chest area
Getting Your Dose Adjusted
- After about 2 weeks, your doctor will program the VNS Therapy to begin stimulations
- Early in treatment, you may visit your doctor every 2 weeks to adjust the device settings to find a dose that provides the most seizure relief with the fewest side effects
- A common dose is a mild 30-second pulse of stimulation every 5 minutes; your dose may be different
- Once your dose is right, your doctor will decide how often you need follow-up visits
- After about 3 to 8 years, a short outpatient procedure will be required to replace the battery
If you have questions about VNS Therapy, talk with your doctor. He or she can answer your questions and help you decide which epilepsy treatment is right for you.