OBJECTIVE: To determine the effectiveness of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy among patients with persistent or recurrent seizures after lobar resection, callosotomy, and other cranial operations for intractable epilepsy.
METHODS: Data were obtained from the VNS therapy patient outcome registry, which was established after United States Food and Drug Administration approval of the VNS device in 1997 as a means of capturing open-label clinical data outside of protocol. The integrity of the systems for collecting and processing registry data was authenticated by an independent auditing agency. The effect of potential selection bias, however, remains uncertain.
RESULTS: Two nonconsecutive cohorts were compared: patients tracked in the registry who had previously undergone cranial surgery for epilepsy (CS group, n = 921) and those who had not (non-CS group, n = 3822). For the CS group, the median reduction in seizure frequency was 42.5% after 3 months of VNS therapy, 42.9% at 6 months, 45.7% at 12 months, 52.0% at 18 months, and 50.5% at 24 months. For the non-CS group, analogous rates were 47.0%, 52.9%, 60.0%, 62.7%, and 66.7%, respectively. In the CS group, seizures were reduced by at least 50% in 55.1% of patients, at least 75% in 31.4% of patients, at least 90% in 17.3% of patients, and 100% in 5.1% of patients after 24 months of VNS therapy. Response rates were more pronounced in the non-CS group: at least 50% in 62.2% of patients, at least 75% in 43.7% of patients, at least 90% in 26.8% of patients, and 100% in 8.3% of patients. Patients in both groups experienced marked improvements in quality of life parameters.
CONCLUSION: The effectiveness of VNS is maintained during prolonged stimulation, and overall seizure control continues to improve with time. Patients in whom prior cranial surgery had failed did not respond as favorably as all other patients receiving VNS therapy. Nonetheless, many of the former group improved substantially. Thus, on the basis of these open-label data, VNS therapy represents a potentially palliative treatment option for patients with refractory seizures after failed cranial surgery.