For most people, vagus nerve stimulation is safe. But it does have some risks, both from the surgery to implant the device and from the brain stimulation.

Surgery risks

Surgical complications with vagus nerve stimulation are rare and are similar to the dangers of having other types of surgery. They include:

  • Pain where the cut (incision) is made to implant the device
  • Infection
  • Incision scarring
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Vocal cord paralysis, which is usually temporary, but can be permanent

Side effects after surgery

Some of the side effects and health problems associated with vagus nerve stimulation can include:

  • Voice changes
  • Hoarseness
  • Throat pain
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing problems, especially during exercise
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Abdominal pain or nausea
  • Tingling or prickling of the skin
  • Insomnia
  • Slowing of the heart rate (bradycardia)

For most people, side effects are tolerable. They may lessen over time, but some side effects may be bothersome for as long as you use vagus nerve stimulation.

Adjusting the electrical impulses can help minimize these effects. If side effects are intolerable, the device can be shut off temporarily or permanently.

Dec. 24, 2015
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