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Vagus Nerve Stimulation, Side Effects, and Long-Term Safety

Ben-Menachem, Elinor

Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology: September 2001 - Volume 18 - Issue 5 - p 415-418
VAGUS NERVE STIMULATION: Review Articles

Summary  Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is an accepted therapy for the treatment of refractory epilepsy and now even depression. More than 10,000 people have had the device implanted over a period of 12 years. Initial side effects in the early years such as lower facial weakness and electrode lead breaks have now been resolved. Postoperative infections occur in approximately 3% of patients but can be treated with oral antibiotics. Side effects during the use of VNS are usually related to the “on” phase of stimulation. Common side effects are cough, hoarseness, voice alteration, and paresthesias. These side effects tend to diminish with time. Cognitive side effects often seen with antiepileptic drug use are not reported. The side effect profile of VNS is positive, and this treatment option offers patients with refractory epilepsy prospects of good efficacy with only minor and often resolvable side effects.

Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden

Dr. Elinor Ben-Menachem, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg University, 41345 Göteborg, Sweden; email: ebm@neuro.gu.se.

Copyright © 2001 American Clinical Neurophysiology Society