Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Vagus Nerve Stimulation:

About one-third of people with epilepsy don’t fully respond to anti-seizure drugs. Vagus nerve stimulation may be an option to reduce the frequency of seizures in people who haven’t achieved control with medications.
Vagus nerve stimulation may also be helpful for people who haven’t responded to intensive depression treatments, such as antidepressant medications, psychological counselling (psychotherapy) and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Vagus nerve stimulation for people who:
⦁ Are 4 years old and older
⦁ Have focal (partial) epilepsy
⦁ Have seizures that aren’t well-controlled with medications

The FDA has also approved Vagus nerve stimulation for the treatment of depression in adults who:

⦁ Have chronic, hard-to-treat depression (treatment-resistant depression)
⦁ Haven’t improved after trying four or more medications or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), or both
⦁ Continue standard depression treatments along with Vagus nerve stimulation


Implanted Vagus nerve stimulation isn’t a cure for epilepsy. But many will have fewer seizures, up to 20 to 50 percent fewer. Seizure intensity may lessen as well.

It can take months or even a year or longer of stimulation before you notice any significant reduction in seizures. Vagus nerve stimulation may also shorten the recovery time after a seizure. People who’ve had Vagus nerve stimulation to treat epilepsy may also experience improvements in mood and quality of life.

Research is still mixed on the benefits of implanted Vagus nerve stimulation for the treatment of depression. Some studies suggest the benefits of Vagus nerve stimulation for depression accrue over time, and it may take at least several months of treatment before you notice any improvements in your depression symptoms. Implanted Vagus nerve stimulation doesn’t work for everybody, and it isn’t intended to replace traditional treatments.

Studies of implanted Vagus nerve stimulation as a treatment for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, headaches and rheumatoid arthritis have been too small to draw any definitive conclusions about how well it may work for those problems. More research is needed.