Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

Some children, whose seizures are not being well-controlled with seizure medications, may benefit from a procedure called Vagus Nerve Stimulation. VNS is used in children of all ages who have partial seizures that are not controlled by other methods. VNS is FDA approved for ages 12 and older.

VNS attempts to control seizures by sending small pulses of electrical current to the brain from a pulse generator ("the battery") attached to the vagus nerve, which is a large nerve in the neck. This is done by surgically placing a small battery or generator into the chest wall. Small wires are then attached to the battery and placed under the skin and around the vagus nerve. The battery is then programmed to send electrical current every few minutes to the brain. When the child feels a seizure coming on, he or a caregiver may activate the device by holding a small magnet over the battery. In many people, this will help to stop or shorten the seizure. 

There are some side effects that may occur with the use of VNS. These are limited to the time of stimulation, and may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Hoarseness
  • Pain or discomfort in the throat