Epilepsy Services: Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
UW Health's comprehensive epilepsy program offers state-of-the-art care for patients with epilepsy or those suspected of having seizures, including vagus nerve stimulation, which involves implanting a device under the skin that sends an electric signal to the nerve that allows the brain to communicate to major organs.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) and Epilepsy
- The VNS device is initially set to deliver the electrical signal for about 30 seconds every five minutes but is adjusted according to the patient's needs.
- Patients are given a magnet that allows them to control the electrical signal and control seizures themselves.
- The surgery is relatively minor, takes about two hours and does not directly involve the brain.
- Risks include infection and bleeding (1 to 2 percent) and damage to the nerve supplying the muscles in the voice box (less than 1 percent).
- Side effects include tingling in the neck while the stimulator is on, changes to the voice including hoarseness, and changes in swallowing and shortness of breath.
- Success rates: About one-half of patients reduce their seizures by half, one-third reduce seizures by less than half and one-third experience no change.
The Vagus Nerve Stimulator is used for:
- Patients with refractory partial epilepsy who are 12 years of age or older
- Patients with primary generalized epilepsy
- Patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Landau-Kleffner syndrome and other seizure disorders