Results

Vagus nerve stimulation isn't a cure for epilepsy. Most people with epilepsy won't stop having seizures or taking epilepsy medication altogether after the procedure.

But many will have fewer seizures, up to 20 to 50 percent fewer. Seizure intensity may lessen as well.

It can take as long as 18 months of vagus nerve 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 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 several months of treatment before you notice any improvements in your depression symptoms.

In addition, vagus nerve stimulation doesn't work for everybody, and it generally isn't meant to replace traditional treatments.

Additionally, some health insurance carriers may not pay for this procedure.

Studies of vagus nerve stimulation as a treatment for conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease, migraine and multiple sclerosis, have been too small to draw any definitive conclusions about how well it may work for those problems. More research is needed.

Dec. 24, 2015
References
  1. Beekwilder JP, et al. Overview of the clinical applications of vagus nerve stimulation. Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology. 2010;27:130.
  2. Morris, GL, et al. Evidence-based guideline update: Vagus nerve stimulation for the treatment of epilepsy: Report of the Guideline Development Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. 2013; 81:1453. http://www.neurology.org/content/81/16/1453.short.
  3. Chengyuan Wu, et al. Neurostimulation for the treatment of epilepsy: A review of current surgical interventions. Neuromodulation. 2013;16:10.
  4. VNS therapy system — P970003s050. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/DeviceApprovalsandClearances/Recently-ApprovedDevices/ucm078532.htm. Accessed Nov. 3, 2015.
  5. Vagus nerve stimulation. American Association of Neurosurgeons. http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Vagus%20Nerve%20Stimulation.aspx. Accessed Sept. 3, 2015.
  6. Martin JLR, et al. Systematic review and meta-analysis of vagus nerve stimulation in the treatment of depression: Variable results based on study designs. European Psychiatry. 2012;27:147.
  7. Britton JW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 3, 2015.
  8. Seizures and epilepsy: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/epilepsy/detail_epilepsy.htm. Accessed Sept. 25, 2014.
  9. Karceski, S., et al. Vagus nerve stimulation for the treatment of epilepsy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 3, 2015.
  10. Holtzheimer, PE, et al. Unipolar depression in adults: Treatment with surgical approaches. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 3, 2015.
  11. Yuan, H, et al. Vagus nerve and vagus nerve stimulation, a comprehensive review: Part II. Headache. In press. Accessed Nov. 3, 2015.